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Lynton Kistler 

Interviewed by Joanne L. Ratner 

Completed under the auspices 

of the 

Oral History Program 

University of California 

Los Angeles 

Copyright © 1993 
The Regents of the University of California 


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This manuscript is hereby made available for research 
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publication, are reserved to 
the University Library of the University of California, 
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
University Librarian of the University of California, 
Los Angeles. 

Photograph courtesy of Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los 
Angeles, California. 


Biographical Summary vii 

Interview History xi 

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (December 13, 1988) 1 

Ancestry and family background--Parents and 
childhood--Early education--Serves in World War 

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (December 13, 1988) 14 

Learns the process of lithography--Meeting 
artists, dealers, and other patrons of the arts-- 
Printing Picture Book for Jean Chariot. 

TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (January 3, 1989) 30 

Father, William A. Kistler, publishes Out West 
magazine--More about his early education-- 
Innovations in printing in the twenties and 
thirties--Convincing customers to switch to 
offset printing. 

TAPE NUMBER: II, Side Two (January 3, 1989) 44 

Alois Senefelder and the invention of 
lithography- -More on printing for Charlot-- 
Exhibition at the Stendahl Gallery--Attracting 
artists to the medium of lithography. 

TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (January 10, 1989) 62 

Galleries and exhibitions for prints in L.A. in 
the thirties--Artists and other people interested 
in prints in the thirties--More on learning the 
process of lithography--Prices of prints-- 
California Printmakers and Los Angeles Art 

TAPE NUMBER: III, Side Two (January 10, 1989) 78 

Working with Merle Armitage- - Warren Newcombe -- The 
Art of Edward Weston --Other early books--More on 
Merle Armitage. 


TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (January 17, 1989) 95 

More on working with Armitage--Converting from 
letterpress to offset lithography printing-- 
Giovanni Napolitano: Fifteen Reproductions of 
His Work -- Modern Dance --Paul Landacre- -Books on 
Stravinsky and Picasso. 

TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (January 17, 1989) 110 

Martha Graham - -Working in his father's plant-- 
Presses and stones he failed to acquire--The 
qualities of lithography stones-- Fit for a King: 
The Merle Armitage Book of Food --Move to New York-- 
Changes in printing materials and equipment. 

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (January 24, 1989) 128 

Artists he worked with in the thirties--More on 
working with Charlot--Involvement with Los 
Angeles art schools. 

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (January 24, 1989) 144 

"Brooklyn Museum Retrospective Print Show, 1913- 
1947 "--Need to keep exercising one's lithography 
skills--Charlot ' s personality--Encouragement from 
the Metropolitan Museum of Art--More on working 
with Chariot. 

TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (January 31, 1989) 157 

Picture Book No. II --Closing the plant--Printing 
for Marcia Maris--Jack Lord and Picture Book No. 
II --Printing a miniature of the original Picture 
Book - -Printing at Blanchard Press in New York. 

TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side Two (January 31, 1989) 172 

Zinc plates replaced by aluminum--Dif f iculty of 
doing plates for The Little Seamstress -- Kei Viti -- 
More on working with Chariot. 

TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One (February 21, 1989) 184 

Printing for artists in Los Angeles--More on 
changes in printing materials and technology- - 
Herbert Ryman--Other lithographers in Los 
Angeles--More on printing for artists in Los 

TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side Two (February 21, 1989) 197 

Los Angeles art galleries' promotion of prints in 
the forties--Working with Man Ray--Working with Max 
Ernst--The working relationship between artists and 
printers--Refusal to print pornography. 

TAPE hfUMBER: VIII, Side One (March 7, 1989) 211 

The Bulletin - -Publishes How To Make a Lithograph - - 
Organizes an exhibit-- Joseph Mugnaini--Projects 
which were never completed- -Eugene Berman. 

TAPE NUMBER: VIII, Side Two (March 7, 1989) 230 

Sets up a commercial printing business on West 
Temple Street- -Differences between stone and 
offset lithography--Necessity of advertising in 
today's market. 

TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side One (March 21, 1989) 243 

Slides of the lithography process--Slides of 
prints by Jean Chariot. 

TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side Two (March 21, 1989) 256 

Slides of lithographs by various artists. 
TAPE NUMBER: X, Side One (March 21, 1989) 270 

More slides of lithographs. 

TAPE NUMBER: XI, Side One (March 28, 1989) 278 

The opening of lithography workshops in the 
sixties--Advantages of collecting prints-- 
Relationship with the various lithography 
workshops--Decision to quit the printing 
business--More on Merle Armitage--Carl Haverlin 
arranges exhibit at California State University, 
Northridge--Decision not to stay in New York-- 
Home at Patricia Avenue. 

TAPE NUMBER: XI, Side Two (March 28, 1989) 295 

Galleries and prints--His contributions to 
lithography--His most noteworthy prints. 

Index 303 

Index of Books and Prints Printed by Lynton Kistler 307 




Bom: August 30, 1897, Los Angeles. 

Education: Hollywood High School and Manual Arts High 
School, Los Angeles. 

Military Service: Private, United States Army, 1917-18, 

Spouses: Naomi Tucker Kistler, one child; Helen 
Mikesell Kistler; Lelah Morris Kistler. 


The Work of Maier-Krieg (1932). 

The Lithographs of Richard Day (1932). 

Warren Newcombe (1932). 

The Art of Edward Weston (1932). 

Rockwell Kent (1932). 

Picture Book , Jean Chariot (1933). 

Henrietta Shore (1933). 

Elise (1934). 

Zarathustra Jr. Speaks of Art , Louis Danz (1934). 

Millard Sheets (1935). 

The Capture of Inspiration , Robert E. Schmitz (1935). 

Napolitano: Fifteen Reproductions of His Work in Oil, 
Sgraffito, Fresco, Drawing, and Mechanical Design 

Modern Dance , Ramiel McGehee, editor (1935). 

Hollywood Bowl , Isabel Morse Jones (1936). 

Igor Stavinsky , Merle Armitage (1936). 


Trip to Greece; Photographs , Jerome Hill (1936). 

Two Statements , Pablo Picasso (1936). 

Martha Graham , Merle Armitage, editor (1937). 

Books and Typography Designed by Merle Armitage , Ramiel 
McGehee, editor (1938). 

"Fit for a King"; The Merle Armitage Book of Food , 
Ramiel McGehee, editor (1939). 

Santos; A Primitive American A rt, Willard Houghland 

Burro Alley , Edwin Corle (1946). 

First Penthouse Dwellers of Ameri ca, Ruth M. Underbill 
(1946). "^ 

Fifty Photographs by Edward Weston (1947). 

Dance Memoranda , Merle Armitage, edited by Edwin Corle 

Alphabet for Adults , Man Ray (1948). 

Max Ernst; Thirty Years of His Work (1949). 

How to Make a Lithograph , Lynton Kistler (1950). 

Stella Dysart of Ambrosia Lake , Merle Armitage (1959). 

Success Is No Accident; The Biography of William Paul 
Whitsett , Merle Armitage (1959). 

Pagans, Conguistadors, Heroes, and Martyrs , Merle 
Armitage (1960, 1964). 

. . . Of Streets and Stars , Alan Marcus (1960). 

Painter into Artist: The Progress of Edward O'Brien , 
Margaret Phillips and Merle Armitage (1964). 

No Going Back; Odyssey of a Conversion , Margaret 
Phillips (1964). 

Atanas Katchamakof f . Leskovetz, La Quinta (1965). 

Picture Book No. II , Jean Chariot (1973). 


Picture Book , miniature copy, Jean Chariot (1974) 

Clinton Adams 
Eugene Berman 
Jean Chariot 
Phil Dike 
Lorser Feitelson 
Mary Finley Fry 
Richard Haines 
Paul Landacre 
Helen Lundeberg 
Marcia Maris 
Stanton Macdonald-Wright 
Joseph Mugnaini 
Jean Negulesco 
Warren Newcombe 
Phil Paradise 
Herbert Ryman 
Palmer Schoppe 
Millard Sheets 
Jan Stussy 
Wayne Thiebaud 
June Wayne 
Beatrice Wood 



American Institute of Graphic Arts, Fifty Books of the 
Year, Warren Newcombe (1932), The Art of Edward Weston 


How To Make a Lithograph . Los Angeles, 1950, 



Joanne L. Ratner, Interviewer, UCLA Oral History- 
Program. B.A., American Studies/Art History, Scripps 
College; M,A., Art History/Museum Studies, University of 
Southern California. 


Place: Kistler's home, Laguna Hills, California. 

Dates, length of sessions: December 13, 1988 (69 
minutes); January 3, 1989 (80); January 10, 1989 (78); 
January 17, 1989 (84); January 24, 1989 (67); January 
31, 1989 (62); February 21, 1989 (63); March 7, 1989 
(67); March 21, 1989 (103); March 28, 1989 (62). 

Total number of recorded hours: 12.25 

Persons present during interview: Kistler and Ratner. 
Kistler's wife, Lelah Kistler, was present 
intermittently . 


In preparing for the interview, Ratner reviewed 
Kistler's papers at UCLA's William Andrews Clark 
Memorial Library. These included a selection of 
Kistler's correspondence dating from 1934 to 1981, the 
majority of which was between Kistler and the artist 
Jean Chariot; Kistler's personal collection of books on 
lithography; and exhibition catalogs, articles, and 
reviews. In addition, Ratner looked at the UCLA Oral 
History Program's 1976 interview with artist June Wayne. 

Although the interview begins with a chronological 
format, for the most part it is organized by topics. 
Major topics discussed include Kistler's initial interest 
in lithography, the lithography process itself, Los 
Angeles artists Kistler worked with, his relationships 
with Merle Armitage and Jean Chariot, the lack of support 
for lithography, and specific lithographs Kistler 
printed. On Tapes IX and X the interviewer and Kistler 
viewed and discussed a series of slides which depicted 
the lithography process itself and the various prints 
which Kistler had done over the years. 



David P. Gist, editor, edited the interview. He checked 
the verbatim transcript of the interview against the 
original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, 
paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. 
Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been 

Kistler was unable to review the draft transcript. 
Therefore, Tobey Moss, a gallery owner and expert on 
California modernist art, reviewed it. She verified 
proper names and asked Kistler for names and spellings 
she was unsure of. 

Teresa Barnett, senior editor, prepared the table of 
contents, biographical summary, and interview history. 
Steven J. Novak, editor, compiled the index. 


The original tape recordings of the interview are in the 
university archives and are available under the 
regulations governing the use of permanent noncurrent 
records of the university. Records relating to the 
interview are located in the office of the UCLA Oral 
History Program. 

Kistler 's papers are deposited at the William Andrews 
Clark Memorial Library, and are listed as Press Coll 


DECEMBER 13, 1988 

RATNER: I'd like to begin our discussion today by talking 
a little bit about your background. Would you mind telling 
me a little about your family, where they're from and how 
they came to California? 

KISTLER: The family originally came from northern 
Switzerland and southern Germany. That is, the Kistler 
family. My maternal grandmother [Mary Richards] was 
English. The Kistlers migrated to this country from 
Germany in about 1723 or around that date. They first 
settled in New York and finally drifted down to 
Pennsylvania, where they established themselves. There is 
a Kistler Valley in Pennsylvania now, which is outside of 
Allentown. It's quite a beautiful, green valley and 
farming and dairy country. I've been back there twice, and 
I'm the only member of this branch of the family that's 
been back to the old home. The first time I went back, we 
ran into some Kistlers there. There were quite a few of 
them living there at that time. That was back in about 
1940, in that area. I thought that I had probably run into 
a group of people that were representative of the whole 
family. They had a big stone house and a large barn. They 
were farming people. I was working in New York at the time 
and I had a New York license on my car, so that they were 

quite suspicious of me and didn't receive me very well, 
although I did make it clear that I was a Kistler. I found 
the valley there a very beautiful place. There's a church 
up on the hill. There's a cemetery, and most of the stones 
in the cemetery were Kistler stones. 

I'm not sure-- Well, the second time we went back was 
with Lelah [Morris Kistler] here. We came in from Ohio and 
down into Pennsylvania. We ran into some people at the 
head of this valley that were quilting, making a quilt. It 
was quite a beautiful thing. We were quite impressed with 
it. They said that they still got together every Saturday, 
I think it was, and did some quilting. When was that 
date? Do you remember, Lelah? You remember the date 
thereabout? [inaudible reply] Yeah, it was right in 
there, '81 or '82. So after visiting with these very nice 
people for a while, why, we went on down the road, and I 
found a sign on a garage. It said "William A. Kistler 
Garage." That was my father's name, and I felt quite at 
home. [laughter] Then we went on down the valley a little 
ways, and we came to a sign that said "Aunt Grade's Gift 
Shop." I stopped and I said, "Let's go in and see Aunt 
Gracie and see what she knows." So we went up the driveway 
a little ways, and there was a stone house to the left of 
the road. We looked around there, and we found a 
cornerstone on the house that said, "This house was built 

in 1812"--was it, Lelah?--"by Samuel Kistler." I have a 
Bible, an old Bible, and it says in it, "This belongs to 
Samuel Kistler." Well, there were so many Kistlers there 
and there were so many Samuels, I don't know whether 
they're any of my relatives or not. But I kind of felt at 
home. I felt as though I'd struck gold [laughter] when we 
hit there and we ran into this Samuel Kistler and that I 
had a Bible of his. It was a very beautiful place and 
quite prosperous, however, because they had another house 
built up on the hill, and that house had a plaque on it 
that said it was built in 1825, I think. So the difference 
between the two dates, they were quite prosperous 
apparently. They had been able to afford a better house 
and had built it there. They had a nice duck pond down 
below, and we chased the ducks around and tried to get them 
to come and eat, but they wouldn't have anything to do with 
this . 

There was a girl there who was-- What was her name? 
Jenny Griner. She was hesitant about showing us through 
the house, because the people were away, her mother and 
father were away. But we talked her into it, and she took 
us all through the house. Of course, it wasn't prepared 
for us or anything, and she was afraid her mother was going 
to be quite upset about it. But they had a beautiful place 
there. Both houses were built of stone. They were 

renovating the house through and through and uncovering a 
lot of the old wallpaper and things like that to get down 
to the original finish in the house. The rooms in the 
house were small, because they didn't have very good 
heating facilities at the time it was built, and it was in 
a state very much like it was to begin with. 

My family, my branch of the family, migrated to 
Marion, Ohio, My grandfather was born there, and his name 
was John Kistler. I haven't much idea about what he did 
between the time that he was born and when he ended up on 
the Ohio River. That's the first that I had any real 
contact with the family. He had a sawmill on the river, 
right on the Indiana side, right where the bridge from 
Louisville comes across the river. It's up on a high 
bank. It must be forty feet down to the river at a 
straight drop. Don't you think so, Lelah? But my 
grandfather was very successful there. He was on the city 
council and he was acting mayor for quite a while. He 
disappeared from the political scene when he joined the 
Prohibition Party. [laughter] That settled him. They 
didn't vote for him anymore. 

But the thing that drove them away from Indiana was 
that they had these horrible floods on the river. It was 
amazing to me that a river could rise that high, because it 
was at least a forty- foot drop down to the water, and to 

have washed out the mill, and to have carried the sawlogs 
away. They just had a grand old time, my father [William 
A. Kistler] and his brother, who would go down the river to 
pick up what logs they could. Pick them up where they had 
stranded along the bank and bring them back. This was in 
1855. His credit was so good that they gave him a million 
dollars' worth of sawlogs at the bank to start him up in 
business again. It had practically wiped him out. Two 
years later, in 1888, why, they had another flood that came 
down and washed the mill away, the business away, most of 
it. My grandfather decided to sell out and come to 
California. At that time he came to California and liked 
it at Escondido. He settled down there and bought the 
hotel and ran that for a few years. It was there that my 
mother [Mamie Chambers Kistler] and my father met. 

My mother's grandfather was a riverboat captain. He 
ran from Ohio down to New Orleans. The last trip that he 
left on, he had quite a bit of money on him. He got into 
New Orleans and disappeared. They never found any trace of 
him at all. He just disappeared altogether. Left my 
maternal great-grandmother [Mary Richards Chambers] with a 
boy and a girl. The boy is my maternal grandfather, my 
mother's father. She was quite a practical woman. She 
figured she could take care of one child, but she couldn't 
take care of two children. So she sent her-- She took her 

boy up to the Shakers and turned him over to the Shakers, 
and they brought him up. They taught him a trade. He 
became a mechanical engineer. He traveled in the West, 
clear out to Wyoming and Montana. My mother had quite a 
few songs that she picked up from my grandfather, and she 
used to sing them to me when I was a kid, these old songs 
that they sang on the range, you know? She was very good 
at it. 

My mother and my father met in Escondido. They came 
up to Los Angeles, and they were married in about 1894, I 
guess. My father worked in Escondido. He took up a 
printing apprenticeship. He became a typesetter at the 
Escondido Blade . Then he moved from there over to 
Oceanside to the Oceanside Wave for a while and finally 
migrated to Los Angeles. My mother came to Los Angeles, 
too, and they looked each other up and they got married. I 
think it was in 1894 that they were married. He worked for 
a man by the name of Mcllheny here, and he was quite a 
valued employee. 

My father was a man of all parts. He was interested 
in everything. He played several musical instruments, and 
he was in a band down in Escondido. When he came to Los 
Angeles, why, he joined a band here. Porter's Band. They 
used to play in the rotunda of the leading hotel in Los 
Angeles and at Westlake Park on Sundays. I used to go out 

to hear the band. He could play almost any instrument. He 
played the clarinet, the piano, and a couple of horns. He 
made a xylophone out of an old bedstead that we had. It 
was an old bedstead, and he made a xylophone and learned to 
play it. But somehow the musical didn't come down through 
the family. 

However, I was much taken with printing at an early 
age. I think that I was about ten or twelve years old when 
he set me up on a stool in front of a type case and put me 
to setting type. So I learned the printing business that 
way. And I'm a self-educated man. That is, I never went 
to college or anything like that. But I was intensely 
interested in printing. My father was one of the leading 
printers in Los Angeles. He had a penchant for moving 
around, though. His first office was at First [Street] and 
South Broadway. Across Broadway- -where the [ Los Angeles ] 
Times building is now--was the Los Angeles Chamber of 
Commerce. It was there that I saw the only president I 
ever saw of the United States. It was Theodore 
Roosevelt. He rode past there, and we were up in the 
building in the printing shop looking down on the street. 
He's the only one I've ever seen in person. 
RATNER: Let me just back up a minute. I don't want to 
interrupt your train of thought, but what year were you 

KISTLER: I was born in 1897. 

My father moved around an awful lot . He moved from 
there down to-- He was progressive, and one of his friends 
that was in the printing business got into financial 
troubles and sold out his plant to him. So he enlarged 
quite early. That was at 123 East Second Street, I 
remember quite well. Then he moved from there up onto New 
High Street and moved across the street at New High Street 
to the old People's Store building. He moved in one of 
their buildings. The People's Store became the May Company 
eventually. Then, at that time, while he was there, he 
acquired the Out West magazine, and for several years he 
published it. George Horton James was an editor at one 
time. Another editor was George Vail Steep. At that time, 
he had a bindery- - 

RATNER: What year is this that you're talking about that 
he was at that location? 
KISTLER: Well, that is around 1910. 

RATNER: Nineteen ten. So you're still a youngster at that 

KISTLER: Yes, I was. Then he moved from there to Los 
Angeles Street, Sixth [Street] and Los Angeles Street, in 
the Chapman Building. Then he moved from the Chapman 
Building down to East Fourth Street. Then he moved across 
the street at East Fourth Street. And then he moved from 


there to West Eleventh Street. By that time, the family 
was pretty well established. I had two brothers and a 
sister, and our time was spent in having all the fun that 
we could and going to school, which was kind of a hard 
task, with all kids. I went to Twenty-fourth Street 
[Elementary] School to M. Amelia Foshay, who taught-- Her 
favorite subjects were arm-movement writing and "Walk on 
the balls of your feet, children." [laughter] She would 
go prancing down, tiptoeing down, the halls. I can see her 

My father built a home at 1629 Van Ness Avenue. In 
about 1905, he started it. That was kind of an idyllic 
time, because in order to save money, why, they put up what 
they called a "shed" first. It was just a room, one room, 
with a slant roof. My father and my mother and my sister 
and I lived in that shed for almost a year's time while 
they were building a house. It was a big eight-room house, 
a rather large place for that time. But the neighborhood 
was completely isolated. It was clear out at the edge of 
town. Between what is now Arlington [Street] and the 
ocean, which was about ten or twelve miles away, there 
wasn't a house anyplace. 
RATNER: Really? 

KISTLER: Venice was developed along in the early part of 
the century. They dug canals there and they had gondolas 

and made it as much like Venice [Italy] as they possibly 
could. They really did a remarkable job on it, because I 
went to Venice in Italy later, and I found that they had 
been quite faithful in reproducing the architecture and 
everything. It was the same feeling. 

My schooling after Twenty-fourth Street School was at 
the Arlington Heights [Elementary] School. They had no 
eighth grade there. It just went up to the seventh grade 
in grammar school. It was along about the time that they 
were instituting the intermediate schools. We had to go 
way down to Berendo [Street] to school, to the [Berendo] 
Intermediate School. It was horribly organized. They say 
that they have trouble in school today, and, gee, you 
should have seen the difficulties that we got into. The 
kids were throwing spitballs at the board. I remember 
particularly I had a friend by the name of Carl Haverlin, 
who's a life friend. He was very German. His name was 
Karl Bismarck Heberlein. [laughter] So you know how 
German he was. He wanted to learn German, and so I kind of 
followed along with it, too. There was a poor German 
immigrant who had come over here, and he undertook to teach 
German. Really, what happened to that poor guy was really 
horrible. His name was Sabesti, I remember. The place was 
just a riot. I mean, from the time that we went into the 
classroom until the time that we got out. The whole school 


was that way, just very much upset. The kids were all in 
rebellion and everything. 

So I went over to Hollywood High School. I had to 
register as being in Hollywood, so I stayed at my 
grandparents' house. On weekends, I'd go around and go 
home and see my folks again. I stayed there for one 
term. By that time, I was footloose and fancy-free, and I 
could get into high school. I thought I'd completed enough 
work in Hollywood High School that I was an accredited high 
school student. I never did graduate [laughter] from 
grammar school ! 

I went to Manual Arts High School . And there were all 
the Downs boys [relatives of World War I pilot Downs] there 
and Jimmy [James] Doolittle, the aviator, and Lawrence 
Tibbets and Marian Morgan, the dancer. At one time, I 
think that half of the judges in Los Angeles were from 
Manual Arts High School. It was about the time that they 
were changing over from rugby to football. When I went 
there at first, the first term or two, why, they were all 
playing rugby. What should I tell you next? [laughter] 
RATNER: What happened after you graduated from high 
school? What year did you graduate from high school? 
KISTLER: Nineteen sixteen. I went over to Kingman, 
Arizona. My father dabbled in everything. He went up to 
Idaho and panned for gold, and he invested in a mine in 


Kingman, Arizona, or outside of Kingman, Arizona. So he 
got me a job on the mine there, and I did a little 
mining. The First World War broke out there. I came back 
to Los Angeles and got a job at the Hammond Lumber 
Company. I was only there for a month or two, and I joined 
the 143d Field Artillery, They trained out in Arcadia, out 
at the racetrack there. Then they sent us down to Camp 
Kearny. We became the first-- Wait a minute. We became 
the 143d Field Artillery, and we went down to Camp Battery 
F. We trained there for a year on three-inch guns, the old 
Spanish-American three-inch guns. They wanted replacements 
in Europe, and I went overseas, the First Division 
headquarters. No, it was Seventh Field Artillery, First 
Division headquarters. I was at the Battle of Soissons and 
Saint-Mihiel and the Argonne drive. I got severely 
scratched, and they put me back in the hospital just before 
the war ended. 

So by the time the war ended, I was down in 
Bordeaux. They evacuated everybody there, no matter how 
small the wound was. I wasn't wounded seriously, but I was 
in the hospital for over a month, I guess. So I got a 
chance to come home, and I came home on a cruiser, which 
was quite an experience. It was the old Seattle . We had 
an eighty-mile gale on the way back. It was really, really 
rough. The water was just coming over the fo'c'sle there 


just like nothing at all. Most of the boys were sick, but 

I didn't get sick. I had a good time. I enjoyed that. 

But it was a nice sensation to get back to the good old 

United States after-- [laughter] 

RATNER: I bet. 

KISTLER: Yes, after France. 


DECEMBER 13, 1988 

RATNER: Before we flipped the tape, you were talking about 

your trip home, and you were glad to be back in the United 


KISTLER: Yes. So I came back into the United States and 

went to work with my father. Business was pretty good 

right at the start. We worked together for about, oh, I 

can't tell you exactly how many years. We moved up onto 

West Eleventh Street and bought a lot of new equipment and 

everything, and we were doing very well. I did well with 

the advertising people and brought in quite a nice lot of 


RATNER: What do you mean by that? You went out and 

solicited business from--? 

KISTLER: Yes. I learned to run our typesetting machine, 

which was a Monotype. Then I finally got to calling on the 

customers. We called on advertising agencies and people 

like that. My father, who always had his eye out for 

something new-- He got into all kinds of things. At that 

time, we had a letterpress plant. 

RATNER: So what years are you talking? Right after the 

war, right now, you're talking about? 

KISTLER: Yes, yes. We had five presses, and he decided to 

go into the lithography business, because at that time, 


photography was commencing to be applied to the 
lithographic process. It had been done almost all by hand 
up to this time, and they had made some advances on it. So 
my father bought a lithograph press. It was a big one. It 
was a 35" X 45" inches press. Most of these printers now 
just have little equipment. I mean, the job printers. We 
were in job printing. So he bought this press. I went 
around trying to convert people to using it for the kind of 
printing that was produced in letterpress printing, 
changing over the method. I was quite successful with 
it. I brought in quite a bit of business with that. But 
it was awfully hard for us to get any information on the 
process. People didn't want to give up their trade secrets 
and things like that. They had ways of working that they 
thought were better than anybody else, and it was secret, 
even so they wouldn't put it out. 

RATNER: So who was using the equipment in your father's 
shop? He had hired people who were familiar with the 

RATNER: And even they didn't want to tell you how they did 

KISTLER: Well, they were reticent too, yes, even though 
they worked with it. So I got the books and went back to 
[Alois] Senefelder. At the time that we got into it, we 


were doing offset work. It printed from a zinc plate to a 
rubber blanket and then transferred from the rubber blanket 
to the paper. So there was an awful lot to understand 
there. But I decided to go back to the stone and commence 
to play around with that. I did worm some information out 
of some of the employees, and I got some books on 
lithography. There had been some. Most of them had a lot 
of misinformation in them, just to throw you off. 
[laughter] So then I finally got to the point where I was 
getting the artist to draw on zinc plates, and in my spare 
time I'd come back and I would pull up some prints and I'd 
give them [the artists] half of them. 
RATNER: At your dad's place? 

KISTLER: At my dad's place. He had the transfer equipment 
there and a transfer press, Fuchs and Lang presses. 
RATNER: Was that state-of-the-art at the time, the Fuchs 
and Lang? 

KISTLER: Yes, I think they were the best. They were the 
best transfer presses. At that time they were using them, 
more or less, to make plates by pulling up stick-ups and 
then putting them up and putting multiple images on another 
zinc plate by the transfer method. So that that did give 
me-- I watched the men too, and I knew what they were 
doing. Finally, I commenced to get interested in stone. I 
said, "Yeah, I'd like to try some stone work." So I got 


quite a number of stones. Some of them were big, and some 
of them were little. I had a couple of stones that size 
there . 

Amongst my customers I had been doing letterpress work 
for and advertising was Merle Armitage, who was an 
impresario and manager of the Los Angeles Grand Opera 
Company at that time. My friend Carl Haverlin was quite a 
circulator around town. He got acquainted with Merle and 
brought him in to me. Merle liked the work that I was 
doing, and so he turned over the work at the [Los Angeles] 
Philharmonic [Orchestra] . 
RATNER: The letterpress work? 

KISTLER: Letterpress work, yes. That was about the time 
that we put in the lithograph press, the big lithograph 

RATNER: Which I think was about 1928, I read in some of 
your correspondence. 

KISTLER: Yes, that's right. It was about 1928. So then I 
commenced to accumulate these stones and rollers and 
materials and things, and-- 

RATNER: And were they easy to come by at that time? 
KISTLER: Paper was hard to find. But you could get all 
the transfer presses that you wanted, because the printers 
were commencing to change over from letterpress printing to 
offset work. Believe me, now printing has gone beyond the 


point where I can understand it. Just the new way of 
working and everything, I wouldn't know how to handle it in 
the printing plant today, and that's just a few years back. 
RATNER: It changes so quickly, I guess. 

KISTLER: Yes. It's all changed around. It's all pasteup 
and everything . They don ' t even have type anymore . 

Well, anyway, I was working in the plant doing 
something one day, and Merle walked in with a kind of a 
small, unassuming-looking sort of man. He said, "This is 
Jean Chariot." And he says, "Chariot, this is Lynton 
Kistler. He's the best stone lithographer in the 
country." [laughter] That put me on the spot. I knew 
what to do, but I had never done it. That was the whole 
trouble. Here was a good customer who had made an 
exaggerated statement about me, and I was embarrassed. 
RATNER: Did he know you'd never printed from stone? 
KISTLER: Sure he did. But he went headlong into things - 
He was the kind of man that went ahead whether it looked 
like it was going to work or not because he was a 
promoter. He usually had several things in the fire. If 
two of them failed, why, the third one would succeed so 
well that he'd come out smelling like a rose. [laughter] 
So that's the way that he worked. 

Well, anyway, there's the print that I pulled. I went 
ahead and worked it out with the help of some of the men 


that I had there. Thomas Barr helped me out in the 
printing of that and kind of held my hand as I went through 
it. That was the first lithograph that I had pulled. Then 
I got so enthused about it that I wanted to do nothing but 
stone printing, which was kind of crazy, I guess. But the 
Depression came along, and my father was getting old and he 
was kind of depressed and everything. He decided to sell 
the plant, so I went to work for another printer and only 
stayed there about a year. 
RATNER: What year was this? 

KISTLER: Well, it was along in the early thirties. So I 
decided to buy a transfer press, and I sent to New York for 
a ton of stone. That was guite a bit of stone to order at 
one time. I opened up my place in the gallery of [Earl] 
Stendahl. I worked there. And I did get guite a-- I 
worked up quite a business there. But Christmas came 
along, and it was in his candy factory that I had my 
lithograph equipment, so I had to shut down during the 
season. So I decided to move out. My wife at that time 
[Naomi Tucker Kistler] had a sister in the East, in 
Boston. She [the sister] was going to have a baby, and she 
had been East once and had stayed about three months . So I 
told her I'd go back with her. I went back to New York, 
where I stayed for about four years. I worked in a 
printing plant there, and I also went to work for my 


brother-in-law in his factory. We were making some 
fixtures for engines. They were water injectors, and I 
worked on those and I worked there for a while. Then-- 
RATNER: What year is this that you're talking about? 
KISTLER: Well, this is-- The war broke out while I was in 
the East. That was in 1941. So I was there from '41 to 
about '45. I came home in '45. By that time, I had built 
a house. Well, before I left and while I was working at my 
father's place, when I built a house on Patricia Avenue. 
RATNER: And that's where you first had your press? I read 
that you had it in your garage at first. 

KISTLER: Well, yes. I moved my-- This all seems to be 
kind of disjointed and not very well organized. [laughter] 
RATNER: It's fine. We'll back up a little and pick up 
some of that, because I did want to ask you a little about 
that earlier period. 

KISTLER: Yes. Well, I decided that I would, when I came 
back-- No, wait a minute. While I was working at my 
father's plant, I sent out and got these stones. I also 
got a lithograph transfer press of my own to print stones 
on. I brought it down and put it in a two-car garage. I 
put it on one side of a two-car garage. I did my printing 
there. The artists used to come out to my place there and 
they would fill up the streets, and the neighbors got 
annoyed with it, that there was so much activity and 


everything. But they couldn't do anything about it, 

because all I was doing was just doing some-- It was 

recreational with me. They would come and they would bring 

these stones, and I'd print them. 

RATNER: I was just going to ask you, how did you meet all 

these artists? Was it word of mouth that they found out 

about you, or--? 

KISTLER: Yes. It was at that time. So then when my 

father sold his business and my wife had gone East to 

deliver her baby, why, I said, "I'm not going to put up 

with this anymore." So I took her back there, and we were 

back there for four years. 

RATNER: Could I just back up one minute? I'm sorry to 

interrupt you. Why did you decide to rent the space in the 

Stendahl factory? Because you were getting so much 

business in your garage? Is that why you decided to move 

your press up there? 

KISTLER: Well, by that time-- Yes. I felt as though I had 

to have the location. I put it up there because I thought 

there would be a lot of artists [who would] come. And I 

did get quite a few. 

RATNER: How did you choose that location? 

KISTLER: Well, I knew Stendahl. I'd met him. Somebody 

introduced him to me. I don't recall just how I did meet 

him, but he was known in the trade. I had commenced to 


circulate around to try to get the art dealers to take on 
the lithographs. You know, I thought that it would get 
people started collecting art, and that way they would get 
to be art collectors and maybe buy things that were 
important. Well, the art dealers, when I got the artists 
in there, they got excited about the artists that I brought 
in and wanted to sell their work instead of what I had to 
sell. [laughter] Because I was really doing it too 
cheap. I hadn't raised it to the proper appreciation of 
the public. 

RATNER: How much interest was there in lithography amongst 
the art schools at that time in the early thirties, like 
Otis [Art Institute] and Chouinard [Art Institute]? 
KISTLER: Well, there was only what I had started off 
there. They knew about lithography. Of course, Millard's 
work-- Millard [Sheets] had been working in New York for 
quite a while, and the artists are pretty knowledgeable 
people. They found out about it, but they didn't have any 
contact with it. So that the equipment that I brought here 
and the way that I started out, it was the first chance 
that they'd had here to do anything about it. Then USC 
[University of Southern California] put in a lithographic 
department, and UCLA got interested in it. Well, that's 
further down the line, though. 
RATNER: So were there any galleries at all that were 


showing prints at that time, in the thirties, in Los 


KISTLER: Yes, there were. The Los Angeles County Museum 

[of History, Science, and Art] , before they moved out on 

Wilshire Boulevard, was showing prints and paintings. 

About half the time, I had more than half the prints that 

were being shown out there. 

RATNER: They were artists that you had printed? 

KISTLER: Yes, artists that I had printed. But I was doing 

it for nothing. I mean, it was just a recreation with me 

to start out. But I finally got interested in it and made 

my first effort at Stendahl's. When that didn't work out, 

why, I went back East and thought it over for about four 

years and came back here. I sold the house that I had 

built on Patricia Avenue and bought a place at the corner, 

an old house, a two-story flat. That is, an upper and a 

lower apartment. So I put my considerable printing 

equipment that I had accumulated by that time downstairs, 

and we lived upstairs. That's where the UCLA people came 

to me. I had been printing for [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright 


RATNER: How did you meet him? 

KISTLER: I met him at the Art Students League in Los 

Angeles. I went up there to-- I don't know whether I was 

trying to take up drawing or whether there was something 


else I was doing. Something up there anyway. It was up at 
the Art Students League. And I told Macdonald-Wright about 
it, and he got interested in it. We made, oh, I guess a 
dozen lithographs. The only ones that he made I printed 
for him. He was an instructor at UCLA. So he got so 
interested in it that he recommended that they come down 
and see me and learn about lithography. They were 
interested in it. They'd heard of it, and most of them 
just by hearsay. The first time they saw a lithograph 
printed or saw a lithograph was in my shop. So I printed 
for them. 

I had ridiculously low prices to try to get the place 
going and get the volume of business through the place. 
And I was getting along okay. But I got enamored of the 
money that there was in the printing business. That is, 
the commercial business. So I went into that. I sold my 
house at Carondelet [Street] . I was there about five 
years. There was a little church across the street from 
our place. Property was going up around there, and they 
wanted the corner that I had. So they came over one day 
and said Mother Trust wanted to see me. She was the head 
of the thing. She asked me how much I wanted for the 
place, and I told her. She reached down in her sock and 
she gave me $30,000. 
RATNER: Out of her sock? 


KISTLER: Yes. [laughter] Yes, she was doing all right 
with her-- [laughter] And I just said, "No, no, you keep it 
here. I want a contract on this." So I went over and 
wrote up a contract and sold the place to her myself and 
didn't have to pay a commission to the real estate 
people. It was lucky for me, though. Because when I'd 
moved in, I'd had a termite inspection. When I sold it, I 
got the same termite people to come and go over the place, 
and they gave it a clean bill. So they had a lot of 
changes that they wanted to make on the place, and they 
started to tear the place apart. And gosh, the place was 
about ready to fall down. Of course, I was in the clear, 
because there was insurance on it. I had insurance on the 
termite through this termite company, and they had to put 
up with straightening it all out. So I felt as though I 
was pretty lucky in getting out of that deal. They got it 
taken care of by the termite people, who had insured their 
work. I don't know what was the matter with them. They 
certainly were taking chances. Now, where were we? 
RATNER: Well, I wanted to back up a little. I know that 
that happened later, that you sold that property. But when 
you came back in 1945, back to Los Angeles, and you bought 
that place at Third [Street] and Carondelet [Street] , how 
much art activity was there in Los Angeles at that time, 
right after the war? 


KISTLER: There was quite a bit. Well, of course, the 
Works Progress [Administration] was going on. They were 
teaching lithography over at the headquarters of the Works 
Progress place. What's his name? The man who made that 
picture there. Macdonald-Wright more or less had charge 
over there. So when they cut down the Works Progress 
place, why, that left me with considerably more business. 
RATNER: When that program wrapped up, you had more 

KISTLER: Yes. I didn't participate in that, because I was 
in business myself. So I did some work for them on the 
offset press before. I printed a large poster, 35" X 45", 
for Millard Sheets, which was quite a task, for the Works 
Progress people. But that was about all. 

RATNER: How did you meet Millard Sheets? You worked with 
him for a long time, I know, for a number of years. 
KISTLER: I met him through Merle Armitage. Merle. I 
printed fifty books for Merle while I was at my father's 
place. I met him through Merle. I printed two books for 
Millard, one while at my father's plant and one at my own 

RATNER: So Merle Armitage seems to have known a lot of 
people and introduced you to a number of people also. 
KISTLER: Oh, yes. I met Edward Weston. I did a book for 
Edward Weston. And Warren Newcombe and his wife, Beatrice 


Wood. Do you know her? 
RATNER: I know her work. 
KISTLER: Yes. She's a screwy one. 
RATNER: [laughter] So I hear. 

KISTLER: She's as smart as she can be, but she has a 
screwy approach to her artwork. I enjoyed working with 
her. And he brought quite a number of people to my 
place. I did two books for Edward Weston. I did the 
first Edward Weston book [ The Art of Edward Weston ] at my 
father's plant. But the best thing I ever did was a book 
of thirty-two lithographs in full color, from four to 
eight colors in them. It was a book that was about 8 ^J^ X 
11" in size. There were thirty- two lithographs on one 
great big sheet. And those all had to be registered as to 
color and position on the sheet. The colors had to be 
printed exactly over the colors before. On top of that, 
we didn't have a plant that was air-conditioned. We went 
to all kinds of tricks to keep the paper from stretching, 
you know? We put it through the press eight times with 
nothing on it, just the pressure on the paper to spread it 
out, get all of the stretch out of it that we could. Then 
it would be liable to shrink if the weather changed. When 
we'd get one of those forms on them-- We had four forms, 
and they had eight on each form, eight pictures. All 
those pictures had to fit, and they all had to be in the 


same position. 

RATNER: Was this one of the books for Jean Chariot? 

KISTLER: Yes, it was. Jean Chariot. It was an unusual 

book all the way through. The plates were drawn by hand on 

zinc, and the printing was done directly from those 

plates. We put those plates on the press and printed them 

from his work. It's the way that lithography works. 

RATNER: Was that one of the later projects that you--? I 

know that you worked with him for so many years, and we're 

going to spend probably one whole session just talking 

about your relationship with him. But since you brought 

that up, was this one of the later projects you did with 


KISTLER: No, that was one of the earliest. 

RATNER: The Picture Book , the first Picture Book ? 

KISTLER: Yes. I've got one back there. 

RATNER: Okay. I'd like to see it. But we could talk 

about that a little bit more in depth. I thought maybe 

that we would wrap it up here for today, and then next time 

we could pick up some of the things from the thirties and a 

little bit more about the forties, unless you had anything 

else you wanted to add today. 

KISTLER: I don't know of anything. We'll let it stand 


RATNER: Okay. Then we'll talk about the Picture Book 


really in depth another time. Because I know that was a 
monumental project and was very well received. 
KISTLER: Yes, it was. 


JANUARY 3, 1989 

RATNER: During our last meeting we talked about, among 
other things, your early involvement with lithography. I 
wanted to begin today by discussing a little bit more in 
depth those early years. We had talked about your father 
[William A. Kistler] quite a bit. You mentioned that in 
1910, while you were still in school, he purchased the Out 
West magazine. I wondered if you could tell me a little 
more about that magazine. 

KISTLER: It was a magazine that had been running. It 
started out as the Land of Sunshine originally. It got 
into financial difficulties, and my father bought it and 
published it for five or six years, I believe, and then he 
sold it. It was a magazine that recorded much of the early 
history of California. I had a complete file of the 
magazine, which I turned over to my younger brother [Rodney 
J. Kistler], and he gave it to one of his daughters. So 
there is a complete file of Out West magazine still in the 
family. They live in Seattle at the present time, and they 
have taken the file up there. This granddaughter of mine-- 
Not my granddaughter, but-- Let's see, it's my brother's 
daughter. She has surveyed the whole magazine and done 
quite a bit of work on it. She went to University High 
School. It was a special high school that she went to. 


She was a very brilliant girl. She did a complete survey 

of the whole magazine, the whole file. I think that that 

magazine ran for some, oh, about twenty or twenty- five 


RATNER: Why did your father sell it, finally? 

KISTLER: Well, he had more than he could carry, and it was 

an expensive thing to promote. He really didn't have the 

money to put into it, so he sold it to another person, who 

published it for a while, and I don't know who they were. 

But it is a very fine file of early California history, the 

history of California from around the fifties, I think, up 

to maybe 1925 or '26. Jack London and a lot of those early 

writers had their stories and articles in them. It's a 

file of a lot of California history and California culture 

and writing. 

RATNER: When we were going over the names a few minutes 

ago from our last session, you were talking a little bit 

about the two editors. 


RATNER: How did your father find them? 

KISTLER: Well, I really don't know. The magazine was well 

known at the time. There were several people that tried to 

associate themselves with it. George Horton James was a 

well-known author around the turn of the century. My 

father got ahold of him. I don't know exactly what basis 


he worked on. I know that he was paid for being editor of 
the magazine. He was a very well known figure. He was 
associated with the Southwest Museum. He did a lot of 
research, archaeological and literary research, and was 
well acquainted with the literary people around the turn of 
the century. 

George Vail Steep came to him after George Horton 
James quit the editorship. George Horton James was editor 
for maybe five or six years or something of that sort. The 
magazine wasn't paying, and my father had to get rid of 
it. It was a financial burden to him. But he got George 
Vail Steep, who was a brilliant man and, as I told you, who 
was an alcoholic. He did his best to overcome it, but-- Do 
you want this on the tape or not? 
RATNER: Yeah, that's fine. 

KISTLER: I don't know whether I'm doing him any good or 
not. But his bad habit was certainly not a detriment to 
his reputation as a human being. He had traveled rather 
broadly and was a brilliant writer. In this present day, 
he would be on television, I'm sure, because he had a fund 
of experience and a fund of information that was unusual. 
He was a very competent man himself. He was well 
educated. It's a shame that he didn't accomplish more in 
his life. But he came to my father. I don't know just how 
my father got ahold of these various people, but the 


magazine was well known and a number of people tried to 
associate themselves with the magazine. It probably would 
have been beneficial to him, but my father couldn't afford 
to pay their demands. 

RATNER: Okay. I also wanted to know a little bit more 
about your schooling. When we were talking about it last 
time, you mentioned that you had attended Hollywood High 
[School] for one term, which gave you enough credits to 
enter Manual Arts High School. I wasn't really clear on 
what you meant by that . 

KISTLER: Well, when I was in grammar school I first went 
to Fremont Street Elementary School . Then we moved out to 
the west side of the city. I went over to Twenty- fourth 
Street [Elementary] School for three or four years. By the 
time I got to the seventh and eighth grades, why, they had 
built a school on Seventh Avenue in Los Angeles. It was 
called the Arlington Heights Elementary School. But they 
didn't have the eighth grade there. It only went to the 
seventh grade. At that time, they were forming the 
intermediate-school educational plan. I had to go clear 
down to Berendo [Intermediate] School. I lived on Van Ness 
Avenue at that time, which was about three miles that I had 
to go to school every day. My folks gave me a dime, which 
was supposed to pay my carfare down there and my carfare 
back. But we saved the dime by getting rides on people in 


automobiles and on the backs of delivery wagons and things 
like that. [laughter] That way I managed to eke out the 
ten cents a day for what I could use it for, I've 
forgotten. It usually went for some kind of a hot dog or 
something like that after coming into town. 

Well, anyway, the school was a mess. They were trying 
to organize it. So I went there for one term. I was alert 
to the fact that I had to have an education by that time, 
and I was serious about it. Well, I just didn't learn 
anything in the eighth grade at Berendo. English classes 
were disorganized. I took German as a second language 
because my friend, Carl Haverlin, was taking German. So I 
took German, too. This man Sabesti was a young German who 
had come to this country. Of course, he had the German 
classes at the Berendo School. Gee, we had nothing but 
riots there for the thirty-five or forty minutes of the 
period of the German session. The kids throwing spitballs 
up against the blackboard and things like that. This poor 
German was just at his wit's end. The strange thing about 
it was that he blamed this friend of mine, Carl Haverlin, 
for most of the disorder that there was in the class. He 
really wasn't responsible for it at all. He was serious 
about learning German, as I was. Most of the class, they 
were just rioting all the time. They just had this poor 
German upset to the point of distraction. I don't know how 


he put up with it. 

So in order to get out of the district, out of the 
Berendo district, I went over to Hollywood and lived with 
my grandfather [John Kistler] for a couple of terms. I 
went to Hollywood High School over there. It was the only 
way that I could get an education. Of course, Hollywood 
High School was well organized at that time. It was one of 
the principal high schools. From there, why, I came back 
to my own home in West Los Angeles the next year or two and 
enrolled in Manual Arts High School. 

RATNER: I see. Which was closer to your parents' house. 

RATNER: Okay. I understand now. 

KISTLER: But to give you some idea of the disorganization 
of the school district even at that time, it really is in 
better shape now than it was then. But you can imagine 
what it was like in the city here at that time. 
RATNER: Okay. Also, when we were talking about your 
father, you mentioned that he was one of L.A.'s premier 
printers and that he was also quite progressive. You said-- 
I'm quoting here-- "Father always had an eye out for 
something new." One of the most progressive things he did, 
it seems, was converting his plant in 1928 from a 
letterpress plant to an offset lithographic printing 
plant. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit 


more about his decision to make that change, and what it 
really meant in terms of the type, quality, and quantity of 
work being done. 

KISTLER: Yes. My father was established and had learned 
the printing business in letterpress work. Along in the 
late twenties and early thirties, there had been progress 
made in lithography that it became apparent that it had an 
application to the ordinary run of printing, regular 
commercial printing. The offset press, which was invented 
in San Francisco, I believe, in 1905, had been 
progressively adopted by the industry, the lithographic 
industry, which was more or less a separate entity in 
itself. There was the lithographic industry, and then 
there was the printing industry, which was more or less-- 
They were separate entities. They didn't mix at all. But 
when the offset press came into general use, it produced a 
lot faster than the old stone lithographic presses did. 

Over a period of years, there had been a tremendous 
development in photography, too. The halftone method of 
printing pictures--in other words, taking a photograph and 
screening it and making a negative that would print a lot 
of dots and make what they call a halftone cut--had gained 
precedence in the letterpress printing. It was found that 
it could be applied to a lithographic plate. The 
improvement that had been made was that they got a better 


negative. They got to the point where they could make 
negatives that could be printed onto a thin zinc plate 
photographically, and they wouldn't have to be staged and 
etched. In order to get a good halftone plate, it was 
necessary in the beginning to make a negative. Then they 
would give it to what they called an etcher, and he would 
work on it with acid and things like that and reduce some 
of the dots and flatten some of the other dots so that they 
printed heavier and gave more brilliance to the halftone 
cut. But they improved the negative that they could make, 
so that they eliminated the hand-etching in the letterpress 
work. So that it became possible to take the negative 
fresh from the camera, print it down on a plate, make a 
halftone print on a thin plate, and put it on an offset 
press and get excellent quality. I don't know if I've made 
myself clear there or not. 
RATNER: Yes, you have. 

KISTLER: But it was the combination of the offset press, 
which increased the speed with which the work could be 
produced, and also through photography-- The quality of the 
printing plate, in both the letterpress and lithographic 
offset plate, could be printed without having any hand- 
etching on it. I don't know if I've made myself clear on 
that or not. I haven't thought about it for the longest 
time. It's hard for me to recall. 


RATNER: No, it's clear. So you eliminated a whole step. 
KISTLER: Yes. It became apparent that offset lithography 
was going to take over most of the commercial printing, 
which it has. All these magazines and everything are 
printed and made possible by the-- They can do it 
photographically with a minimum of handwork, and they can 
get perfect work. The offset press improved the speed with 
which the work could be produced. A stone press would- - 
Fifteen hundred or two thousand an hour was as many sheets 
as you could print in an hour. With the offset press, you 
could print up to twelve thousand sheets an hour. Of 
course, there are limitations that enter in there. 

There was another thing that was very important. 
Chemically, the inks were improved, too. When I went into 
the business, a lot of our colors were what they call 
"earth colors." In other words, they ground up stone, and 
they had certain substances that they precipitated and used 
for their colored inks. They had different materials that 
were used. They ground up, as I say, stone and different 
precipitations and different things that they could 
precipitate and use for color. But the invention of 
aniline colors, the use of aniline colors, and the 
development of certain chemicals and things that they mixed 
in the ink, they got it so that the inks-- You could print 
them rapidly. 


Even though the offset press could run at twelve 
thousand an hour, they couldn't run it that fast, because 
they didn't have ink that would work on it. I know at one 
time I bought a press that had a capacity of twelve 
thousand an hour. I thought I v/as going to go right to 
town with it. I got a long run and made a good price on 
it, thinking that I was going to be able to run it at 
twelve thousand an hour. I stepped it up to about eight 
thousand an hour, and the ink just flew into the air. It 
covered a lot of our stuff in my plant and everything else, 
so that I had to reduce the speed of the press down quite a 
bit in order to get it to print. It just tore that ink 
apart and just threw it into fine mist throughout the 
plant. But today, they have presses that run up to fifteen 
thousand an hour, and they can print one color over the 
other immediately. When I went into the business, we would 
print one color, and then we would let it lay until it had 
set. Then we'd take it and run another color over it, and 
another and another. Four-color printing that way was a 
lengthy matter. It was a hard thing to do. We hadn't gone 
into air-conditioning, which is another factor that had to 
be dealt with in the printing business. It became 
necessary to air-condition our plants in order to get the 
high speed. At first, we were printing one color over the 
other, and we had two-color presses. Then it went into 


four-color presses. They have presses now that you can 
print as high as six colors, once through the press. 

KISTLER: Once through the press. It goes through, really, 
six presses, one after the other, to print the six 
colors. Most of these magazines now are printed in four 
colors. They may have one or two extra colors that they 
want to print that are special. So they'll have five and 
six colors on some of them. They've got the inks made so 
that they will run on those presses and can be printed one 
after another immediately. Because the six-color press is 
really six presses set up one after the other, so that the 
sheet of paper goes through--one, two, three, four, five, 
six--one right after the other. It's almost immediate, 
because they run very fast. They print up to 4,000 and 
5,000 impressions an hour on them now. So it has been a 
combination of the mechanical presses and the chemicals and 
chemicalization and the inks and the handling of the 
paper. It's all done automatically today, almost. 
RATNER: Was your father the first printer in Los Angeles 
to convert to an offset plant? 

KISTLER: No. There were a couple. All of the printers 
were interested in them. My father was one of the first. 
He bought a one-color offset press, a 35" X 45" press. We 
made our own negatives. We stripped our own and put them 


together, put the negatives together, and printed them down 
on the plates and made the plates. We did the whole 
process in our shop. We sent the binding out, however. We 
did simple binding: folding and things like that. But 
books that we printed were bound outside of the shop. The 
binding of the books was done outside of our place of the 
books . 

RATNER: How receptive were his customers to the change? 
KISTLER: It was a rather hard job to sell the new method 
to people. They didn't understand it. There was a lot of 
educational work that had to be done. In other words, they 
knew how to prepare the copy for letterpress printing, but 
they didn't know how to prepare for offset work or how it 
was going to come out. We had to do a lot of experimen- 
tation. We did a lot of advertising printing, and we had 
to do a lot of talking in order to get people to use the 
new process. 

RATNER: I guess eventually you convinced them, or at least 
most of them. 

KISTLER: Yes. Well, we were fortunate in that regard. My 
friend Carl Haverlin made friends with Merle Armitage, who 
was the manager of the Los Angeles Grand Opera Company that 
was operating along in the twenties and early thirties. 
Merle was interested in prints, and he was interested in 
books. When we put in the new process, why, he was one of 


the people that was willing to go along with what everyone 
figured was an experimentation. It was an experimentation 
on our part, too. We had to run experiments before we 
could even convince him. But he was interested in doing 
books, so he brought his books to me through my friend Carl 
Haverlin. Carl Haverlin brought Merle Armitage into my 
plant and introduced him to me. He was impressed with the 
letterpress work we were doing. He was also enthusiastic 
about the offset, the possibility of printing books by 
offset. So the first book that we did for Merle Armitage 
was a book of-- Let's see, what--? 

RATNER: Here's something from 1932, The Work of Maier- 
Krieg . Was that it? 

KISTLER: Yes, [Eugen] Maier-Krieg. That's what I was 
trying to recall. We did a book for Merle Armitage and 
Maier-Krieg. We did the photography on it and we made the 
plates, and it came out a very handsome book. He was well 
pleased with it, and we were well pleased with the work 
that we had done on the book. It created quite a 

Merle Armitage was interested in prints, so I found 
out something about stone printing. It was awfully 
difficult to get any information, even from our own 
workmen, about methods and about improvements and about 
special things that people knew about that they could do 


with lithography. They wouldn't pass the information 
around. It was very secret, a secretive sort of thing. So 
Merle was a collector of prints, and he had gotten some 
prints that were made from stone. I decided that I would 
go back and get what information I could and start right in 
at the bottom and build the thing up from the start so that 
I understood the process from start to finish. In order to 
do that, why, I got some stones in. At first, I took zinc 
plates around, small zinc plates around to my customers. 
By that time, I was out of the plant and was doing sales 
and contact work. I was calling on artists and advertising 
agencies and Merle Armitage. Armitage had a very fine 
collection of prints. Amongst them were a lot of stone 

So I got ahold of a book [ The Invention of 
Lithography ] . It was published by the Fuchs and Lang 
[Manufacturing Company] people. It was a book that was 
written by the inventor of lithography, whose name was 
Alois Senef elder. Lithography was one of those inventions 
that didn't have any background at all. Senef elder started 
out-- He wanted to print music. 


JANUARY 3, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, when we flipped the tape, you were saying 
Senef elder started out wanting to print music. 
KISTLER: So he practiced writing music backwards, which he 
had to do because the printing plate they made would print 
backwards if it was written on the plate the right way. So 
letterpress printing and the early lithography was done by 
pressing the paper against the printing plate, so that what 
you got was a reverse of what was on the printing plate. 
So you had to have it backwards to start with. Do you 

KISTLER: So he lived in Munich near the Solnhofen 
quarries. That was a big quarry for the limestone that was 
being used at that time in lithography. Not in lithography, 
but it was being used in building. Lithography hadn't been 
invented yet. So he got some of this limestone, and he was 
practicing reversed writing on it. He would etch it so 
that it stood up in relief, and he could ink it at the top 
and it would print. Progressively, he found it was not 
necessary to etch it so far. Finally, he got it down to a 
chemical method of printing where it depended upon creating 
a greasy surface from which to print, and a hydroscopic 
surface could be chemically established. So you had a 


planographic plate, but there were two different-- You 
changed the character of the stone on the surface to-- 
First, the printing surface has changed to a surface that 
would take ink. The other surface was treated chemically 
so that it would only take water. So one place the water 
was was where your printing surface was, and it wouldn't 
take water because it was greasy. And the blank surfaces 
would not take ink because they were damp. You'd dampen 
the stone first, and then you rolled it with an inky 
roller. The printing surface would pick up the ink. The 
hydroscopic surfaces were damp, and they would repel the 
ink. You inked the stone and you put a piece of paper on 
it, and you'd pull your print and you'd get what was on the 
stone. It would be the right way, because it was backwards 
on the stone and it would come out reverse. So that was-- 
Let ' s see, where was I? 

RATNER: You were telling me that you had gotten this book 
from Fuchs and Lang to learn about lithography. 
KISTLER: Oh, yes. Lithography was an invention of one 
man. There was no background to it at all, except that he 
wanted to make a printing process that he could print music 
with. So, progressively, he worked this method out until 
he had a planographic plate, and from there it took off. 
But all of the work on the stone at first was done by 
hand. Of course, there was no photography until very late 


in the nineteenth century. Senef elder invented lithography 
in 1796. So just about a hundred years [later], approxi- 
mately, why, it commenced to come out, the whole process. 

So I went ahead and went through all of his 
explanation of stone work. I accumulated some stones to 
experiment on. I experimented, went to artists and asked 
them to make a drawing on a stone or on a zinc plate, which 
was also possible to work on lithographically at that 
time. I'd bring them back and pull a half dozen or a dozen 
prints, and I'd give the artist half the prints and I'd 
take half myself. 

RATNER: Instead of charging them? 

KISTLER: Yes. I couldn't get anybody to pay for it. 
[laughter] Merle Armitage was a friend of artists: Edward 
Weston, the photographer, and-- Well, one day, he walked 
into our plant, and I was working on some of the things 
that I was doing there. He brought a man by the name of 
Jean Chariot. 

RATNER: Right. We mentioned that a little bit last time. 
KISTLER: Yes, into the plant. He introduced me as "the 
best lithographer in Southern California." Chariot was 
impressed. I had some big stones there, the size of that 
one there. 

RATNER: How big is that, would you say? 
KISTLER: Well, that's about 26" X 30" I guess. I agreed 


to print this piece for Jean Chariot. 

RATNER: Which is called Woman with Child on Back , is that 

KISTLER: Yes, that's right. I did that with the help of 
one of my men, Tom [Thomas] Barr. He was one of the men 
that I could get information from. He was a friend of the 
family, too. He gave me some information on it. I went 
ahead and I printed it and pulled about twenty prints in 
two colors. That was my start in the thing. 
RATNER: So that was very ambitious to start with color 
when you'd never done a stone print before. 

KISTLER: Well, I was kind of stuck, because Merle Armitage 
was my best customer at that time. I was doing books for 
him. Or he was getting ready to do books, rather, at that 
time. So, after that first work, the first book that I did 
with Armitage-- I guess I had printed about five or six 
books on the offset press by the time I had gotten in touch 
with Chariot. Chariot was a Frenchman. He'd spent about 
four or five years down in Yucatan making drawings of the 
stone work at Chichen Itza. So he had made friends with 
[Jose Clemente] Orozco and [Diego] Rivera and a lot of 
those Mexican artists. They were doing some work on 
stone. They were drawing on stone. So when he came up 
here, he started to look around for a printer to do 
stone. Merle Armitage, who was interested in his work. 


brought him into my shop. That's the way I got acquainted 
with him. 

RATNER: And had he ever done color before? 
KISTLER: No. He had never done any color lithographs 
before. So we pulled that one off, and it came off so 
well. Then I expanded and I did, oh, maybe a couple of 
hundred different lithographs for him. He had quite a 
number of drawings, and he wanted to put them into a 
book. So I talked my father into doing it on this large 
offset press that we had. We had eight different images on 
a sheet, and we printed them in from one to six colors, and 
they had to be run through separately. Each one of these 
drawings had to be registered with the whole sheet, and all 
of them had to hit right in the right position. The size 
of the sheet that we were running was 35" X 45", which is 
pretty big. It was really an ambitious undertaking to 
undertake a hand-drawn book from four to eight colors . We 
had to run each color separately, let it dry for a day. We 
had no air-conditioning. It was awfully hazardous running 
them. We had five forms on them. We had four forms of the 
drawings. We turned out this book [ Picture Book ] . It was 
really an accomplishment because of the problems, the 
undertaking. I don't believe that there ' d ever been 
anything done like it, and I've never seen anything like it 
anyplace that was done before we accomplished this in our 


plant. Each color was drawn separately on a separate 

plate. Then the colors were printed separately, one at a 

time. It would take us about a week or more to finish the 

printing on one of the forms that we had. We had five 

forms . 

RATNER: But a total of thirty- two lithographs made up that 

book, right? 


RATNER: So that must have taken an awfully long time. Do 

you remember how long the entire project was? 

KISTLER: Well, it took us about six months, I guess, to 

finish it. 

RATNER: I have here too that it was designed by Merle 

Armitage. What does that mean? 

KISTLER: Well, he laid out the book. He was the designer 

of the book, and I set the type. It was a handset type. I 

set the type, and we had to make a separate plate for the 

printing that went with it. You haven't seen the book, 

have you? 

RATNER: I saw just one. I saw a copy at the [William 

Andrews] Clark [Memorial] Library. 

KISTLER: Oh, you did? 

RATNER: I enjoyed looking at it. If you had a copy here, 

I'd like to look at it again with you if there was anything 

you wanted to tell me more specifically about it. 


KISTLER: Well, I'll go and get it. [tape recorder off] 

RATNER: So this is the original Picture Book right here? 

KISTLER: Yes. There was a wrapper that went around it, 

and I had-- 

RATNER: Instead of a slipcover like that? 

KISTLER: Yes, instead. This was a wrapper, but it 

deteriorated. I found one in a bookstore and bought it. 

So I made a slipcase out of it. 

RATNER: Oh, that was a good idea. So you printed five 

hundred of these, I know. 

KISTLER: Yes, that's right. 

RATNER: And to whom were they sold initially? 

KISTLER: Well, they were sold to subscribers. They sold 

them by subscription. 

RATNER: So that's how you financed the project? 


RATNER: I see. 

KISTLER: That's right. 

RATNER: Well, maybe you should be showing it to me and 

telling me. 

KISTLER: Well, I don't know. It's a picture book. 

[laughter] That one, I believe there are four or five 

colors on that. Each one of those colors was drawn on a 


RATNER: On a separate plate. 



RATNER: I know at the Clark they have-- I think maybe you 

gave them some of the trial proofs or something, because I 

know I saw something that was progressive stages of colors. 

KISTLER: Yes, yes. 

RATNER: Then whose idea was it to have--? Paul Claudel, I 

guess, was the Frenchman who wrote the inscriptions? 

KISTLER: Well, he [Chariot] was a Frenchman, and he was a 

friend of Paul Claudel. He wanted to sell some in 

France. So he had a friend of Merle Armitage's [Elise 

Cavanna Seeds] translate. It was written in French at 

first, and this friend of Merle's translated it from French 

into English. 

RATNER: Then it also won an award, right? It was one of 

the fifty-- 

KISTLER: One of the Fifty Books of the Year from the 

American Institute of Graphic Arts. 

RATNER: So considering this was your first effort at 

something like this, you must have all been very thrilled, 

beyond words, I imagine. 

KISTLER: [laughter] I'm still thrilled with it, you 

know. It's one of the things that I'm proudest of that 

I've made. 

RATNER: Was your father resistant at first? 

KISTLER: No, he was-- He should have spanked me instead of 


letting me do it. [laughter] But he was very cooperative. 

RATNER: I remember also reading in some of the 

correspondence at the Clark that, I guess, if you can even 

find this in a rare bookstore now, it's quite costly. Do 

you remember what it cost when it first was completed in 


KISTLER: Fifteen dollars, I believe. 

RATNER: Fifteen dollars. What's it going for now? Do you 


KISTLER: Well, it has sold for as high as $3,500 for a 

single book. That one there I think I bought from a 

bookstore recently--about two years ago, I think--and I 

paid $1,000 for it! [laughter] 

RATNER: My goodness. So you didn't keep any for yourself 

at the beginning? [laughter] 

KISTLER: No. I've always wanted to get my work out. I 

printed because I wanted people to have prints. My 

ambition was to print and make good artwork of important 

artists available at a reasonable price. I was interested 

in doing that, and I thought that lithographs were suited 

to that purpose. So I always priced everything as low as I 

could and tried to get widespread distribution. But I 

think my idea was wrong, because if you want to impress 

anybody you want to put a high price on it, and then 

they'll want it real bad. 


RATNER: [laughter] That's unfortunately true. 

KISTLER: If it's too cheap, why, they don't think it's 

worth much. 

RATNER: You're right about that. I think I also remember 

reading that initially you couldn't sell all of them and 

that you sold some of the plates individually. Is that 

true? Am I mixing that up with another project? 

KISTLER: I think that I did frame some of them and sell 

them signed, individual prints. 

RATNER: This is in beautiful condition. The quality of 

the paper is really lovely. That was during the 

Depression. How difficult was it to get good quality paper 

and inks and things at that time? 

KISTLER: Well, the paper industry had not recovered at 

that time. This was the best paper that I could buy, and 

it was from the Strathmore Paper Company, which had a very 

good name at that time. It was the best paper that was 

available. I had it shipped in from out of town. They 

made the special paper that they were making at that time. 

RATNER: How had the Depression affected the lithography 

industry, in Los Angeles in particular? 

KISTLER: Well, eventually it put my father out of 

business, really, is what happened. Financing wasn't as 

available. We had a lot of equipment. We had a good 

business, but we hadn't-- That is, we had good equipment 


and everything, but we didn't have enough to keep us in 

RATNER: And it was that way pretty much across the board? 
KISTLER: Yes, it was pretty much that way. A lot of them 
went out of business at that time. 

RATNER: What year was that that your father finally went 
out of business? 
KISTLER: Nineteen thirty-six. 

RATNER: Well, I know you said last time also that after 
you had printed your first lithograph with Chariot, the 
Woman with Child on Back , you wanted to do nothing but 
print from stone. I think you said that that was a crazy 
thing to want to do. What was so crazy about that? 
KISTLER: [laughter] Well, there was too much promotional 
work to be done, and there were not enough artists that 
were available that could do the work, that their work was 
available. There was really no market for it, except an 
occasional collector like Merle Armitage. There weren't 
any of the fine marketing techniques that they have today, 
you know, to get people in to buy things. Gee, the way 
that they razz you on the television. The amount of 
advertising matter that we get here is just-- Well, it 
disturbs me that there's so much of it, just loaded. The 
advertising is written by people that studied psychology, 
and they're highly educated in the use of the products and 


everything. Marketing has become-- Well, I think that it's 
a nuisance today. I don't think that half of the products 
that are on the market are worth the money that they ask 
for them if they do what they're supposed to do. But 
they're just sold on the basis of the pressure that's put 
on people. You get on the television here, and almost all 
of the stations are just loaded with advertising. Look at 
your newspapers and look at-- I'll bet you get a lot of 
direct mail yourself. 
RATNER: Yes, I do. 

KISTLER: We get a stack like that almost every day, 
solicitations of various art. And these people are 
experienced in changing your mind, too. They know how to 
do it. They just keep after it, and in spite of the fact 
that you say no, why, they've got yes in their mind all the 
time. That's what happens to you when you get so much of 
this stuff. We throw away tons of stuff here that we don't 
even open the letters on. Some of these solicitations that 
are made almost make you cry, they're written so well and 
are so persuasive. And they don't take no for an answer. 
You tell them no once, why, they send you some more, and 
then they pass it around. They pass your name around. 
They trade names with other people. I don't know what's 
going to become of this advertising business. When people 
get as smart as I am about it, well, then-- [laughter] 


RATNER: Then maybe they'll stop a little bit. 

[laughter] They won't be getting any money in the mail. 


RATNER: Well, I thought we'd go on now and talk about-- In 

1933, after you had, I guess, gotten some artists to print 

from stone- - 


RATNER: As you say, after you had done this print with 

Chariot, and I guess actually even completed the first 

Picture Book . You must have done a fair amount, because I 

have a little brochure here from an exhibition that you 

held. It was your first exhibition of your work, entitled 

"Impressions Printed by Hand from Stone and Zinc by Lynton 

Kistler at the Stendahl Gallery." Then that little catalog 

includes an introduction by Merle Armitage. Here, I can 

show it to you. I don't know--it's a xerox--how well you 

can see it, but-- I wondered how that project came into 


KISTLER: Yes. Well, I don't-- I'm just trying to think 

when that was done. 

RATNER: Nineteen thirty- three, I think it says. 

KISTLER: Well, that was done when I was still at my 

father's shop. Yes. Yes, I remember it now. Thomas Barr, 

Edwin Botsford, John Breneiser, Stanley Breneiser, Jean 

Chariot, Richard Day, Franz Geritz, Paul Landacre. I did 


one of the few lithographs that he ever did. 

RATNER: He did mostly etching, Landacre? 

KISTLER: Yes. He was a very good friend of mine. He 

wanted to do more, but I advised him to stay with his wood 

engraving, because he had a specialty there that he was 

trying to sell. Gerd Lovick, Warren Newcombe. Yes, I 

remember that . 

RATNER: And then there are more names here, too. 

KISTLER: Yes. Warren Newcombe, Elise Seeds. That was 

Merle Armitage's wife at that time. He was married several 

times. I think he was married six times. 

RATNER: Oh, my goodness. 

KISTLER: Henrietta Shore, Blanding Sloane, Beatrice 

Wood. That was all. 

RATNER: So what made you decide to mount this exhibition? 

KISTLER: Well, I wanted to sell the prints. I wanted to 

get more printing. I wanted to get more printing to do by 

selling the prints. It was the whole idea. 

RATNER: And did you know [Earl] Stendahl before this, 

before you asked him if you could have the exhibition 


KISTLER: Yes, I think I did. 

RATNER: And did many prints sell? 

KISTLER: Not very many. The trouble was that the people 

came in and-- Well, when I had my gallery at Third [Street] 


and Carondelet [Street], why, they'd come in and go through 
my whole stock and pick one or two and say, "Well, I'll be 
in in a couple of days, and I'll think about it." They'd 
go through everything that I had. They'd come back and 
then decide that they didn't want it. Or if they did buy a 
print, why, it was $5 or $10 I got out of it, which didn't 
amount to a hill of beans as far as keeping me in business 
was concerned. I had my prints in several galleries, but 
the galleries just used them as a come-on. They get them 
in and they find out that they liked a certain artist, why, 
then they would try to sell them a painting--and usually 
did before they got through- -rather than a lithograph. It 
was just too big an emotional job for me to undertake all 
by myself. 

RATNER: Right, to do the printing and to do that, too. 
KISTLER: Yes. But I liked the work, and I did work at it 
for quite a number of years. 

RATNER: How much increased business from artists, for 
example, did you get from having that exhibition? 
KISTLER: Well, I had regular contact with artists right 

RATNER: So, I mean, additional artists that hadn't known 
about you, then they found out about you from that? 
KISTLER: Yes. Yes, they came from all over. I had them 
come from Arizona and New Mexico. I was back in New York 


at one time. I was walking down the street. At the 
Rockefeller Center there's a gallery on Fifth Avenue there, 
and I saw some pictures of some horses. Bug-eyed horses. 
I've got the lithographs in the back that I made. 
[Florencio] Molino Campos, he was an Argentine who was run 
out of Argentina by [Juan] Peron. He either had to get out 
or they were going to shoot him. So he came up to this 
country, and he made calendars for the International 
Harvester Company. He had some paintings on exhibit in the 
window on Fifth Avenue. I saw these paintings and them 
bug-eyed horses, and they're as cute as they can be. So I 
said, "Gee, I'd sure like to get him into my studio and get 
him to do some work." After I opened my studio at Third 
and Carondelet, why, he walked into my place one day-- 
RATNER: Just coincidentally? 
KISTLER: Just coincidentally, yes. 
RATNER: Oh, my goodness. 

KISTLER: What a thrill that was for me. I thought, gee, 
I'm going to get some marvelous lithographs now, even if I 
have to print them for nothing. [laughter] But he 
couldn't work in black and white. He had to have color. 
And I wasn't in the position at that time to do color. I 
had quite a bit of black and white work that I was doing. 
But later on, when I got into printing offset lithographs, 
why, I printed some in color, and they turned out 


marvelous. But they didn't sell any better than any of the 

others. There was a sales problem there that needed 

solving, and it needed somebody to take it over and sell 


RATNER: From the works that you showed in the Stendahl 

show in '33, were those artists--? How were you paid for 

that work? 

KISTLER: Well, some of it I printed just for experience. 

Some of them were the pictures that I had printed in my 

father's plant in experimentation. I'd go around to these 

artists and I'd tell them about it and give them a piece of 

zinc and say, "Make a drawing on it with a lithograph 

crayon, and I'll print them for you." I would take half of 

the prints, I'd give them half of the prints, and we were 

in business. 

RATNER: So at that point you were still maybe taking part 

of the edition. 

KISTLER: Yes, I'd still. And some of those that I 

included in that Stendahl-- I think that those were done in 

that catalog. I think that's the first catalog that I put 


RATNER: I think so, from what I read. 

KISTLER: Yes. They were all printed either in my father's 

shop or in my garage. It didn't work out very well for me 

to have my stone printing in the shop, in my father's 


shop. So I bought a lithograph press, a lithograph 
transfer press. I took it out and I put it in my garage. 
A lot of the things that I've printed were printed in the 
garage there. I set up a place to grain my plates and 
everything. Saturdays and Sundays, why, I would put in my 
time printing. And I had the neighbors all upset. There 
was one neighbor that was upset, the man across the street 
from me, because I had so many people in my place. I was 
doing it for nothing then because I was doing it just as a 
trade-off. You know, I'd give them prints and not charge 
them for them, and I'd take prints as pay for my work. 
That's the way that I had to do most of it. So that there 
wasn't very much money coming out of it, but of course I 
didn't have any rent there. But there was a time when the 
artists were interested enough that they would come to my 
place and, well, practically, there would be no place to 
park on the street because of the people who were there. 
This one neighbor went to the planning commission and 
complained about it. I said, "Well, it's a hobby. What 
are you going to do about it?" [laughter] So he couldn't 
do anything because I wasn't taking any money for what I 
was doing. 


JANUARY 10, 1989 

RATNER: We spoke last time about your show in 1933 at the 
Stendahl Gallery. I'd like to know a little bit more about 
some of the other galleries that were active in Los Angeles 
during the thirties, and particularly their interest in 
prints, such as the [Dalzell] Hatfield Gallery and Jake 
Zeitlin's gallery. 

KISTLER: Yes. Well, I would say that Hatfield and Zeitlin 
were the best known galleries. Dalzell Hatfield was a 
dealer in paintings, of course. With his wife Ruth 
[Hatfield] , they had quite an extensive business in Los 
Angeles here. They were the leading dealers and very 
active in handling the work of local artists and bringing 
new things into the area here. They had several rooms in 
the Ambassador Hotel, and they were the most active people 
in paintings. Unfortunately for printmakers, they used-- 
All of the dealers here used the prints that were delivered 
to them to drum up business. They [the customers] would 
come in interested in prints, and they would swing them 
over to paintings. They were more interested in selling 
their paintings. Of course, you couldn't blame them for 
doing that, because they had considerable expense. 

Prints at that time needed quite a lot done on them to 
make them popular, make them generally collected. Merle 


Armitage, who was the most active print collector in this 
area at that time, he had a considerable collection of 
etchings and lithographs and things of that sort that 
antedated all the work that I had done. He was immensely 
interested in the work that I had taken up in the printing 
of lithographs, the fact that I got interested in printing 
the art lithographs. So that there weren't too many 
galleries that were handling the prints. We not only had 
to print the prints and promote the media of lithography 
amongst the artists, but we also had to do our best to sell 
some of the prints in order to get people interested in 
them. There was a lot of work to be done. There still is 
a lot of work to be done as far as prints are concerned. I 
think that prints are really a very fine opportunity for 
the average person to accumulate first-class artwork and 
fine artists' work at a reasonable price. It brings it 
within the reach of the average man, so that the average 
person can possess the work of real well known artists. 
Here on my walls right now, I've got the work of Jean 
Chariot and [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright and these two 
woodblock cutters. Let's see, it's Thomas Wolfe and-- I 
can't think of the other one right now. 
RATNER: Paul Landacre? 

KISTLER: Well, yes, Paul Landacre. And, let's see, Wolfe, 
and I don't know this other one here. What's his name? 


RATNER: [pause] I can't read it. Henry something maybe? 
KISTLER: Oh, isn't that something? Gee, he's well 
known. [pause] Hmm. Well, put it aside. It will come to 
me. My memory's not as good as it used to be. 

Then there are two there that are very well known. 
Laura Knight, there's an aquatint by her, and a lithograph 
by Rockwell Kent. At the time that I accumulated these 
things, I couldn't afford a painting, so I feel as though 
it's a real opportunity to own something worthwhile, not 
just have a lot of junk on the wall. You don't have to cut 
magazines apart and put them up. I got the real artwork 
on. I appreciate it very much, being able to have them. I 
think that lithography is something that the average person 
can afford. Even the watercolors of some of the better- 
known artists are very expensive. Prints that are signed 
are really of real value. 

RATNER: Why do you feel there was so little regard during 
the thirties, for example, for prints? You know, by these 
gallery owners who preferred to sell paintings over prints. 
KISTLER: Well, because they got more money for them, they 
promoted them more. The artists didn't hold their work as 
valuable enough. The prices that are asked for prints 
today are far above what we were able to ask for, I mean. 
Ask for them and not get it. [laughter] You get an 
idea. Not even get the sale of them. They used to come 


into my place and they would go through all of the prints 
that I had. When I was at Third [Street] and Carondelet 
[Street] , why, I was operating in the whole field of the 
business. I was producing the prints and doing everything 
but drawing them. I had a gallery as well as a printing 
shop. I sent prints that were printed in my plant 
throughout the United States, up and down the coast. I had 
a little gallery in my place, and then I sent all of the 
shows up as far as Seattle and over to Brooklyn, New York, 
Cleveland, and places like that. At the Los Angeles 
[County] Museum [of History, Science, and Art] , when it was 
over in Exposition Park, I had shows every year of 
prints. I had from a third to a half of the prints that 
were shown in the show at that time, sometimes. For four 
or five years there, I had-- 

RATNER: How actively were they collecting prints? 
KISTLER: Well, they were taking all that were given to 
them. They were not buying any or anything like that. 
There were no prizes offered, but they did run a show every 
year for several years while they were over in Exposition 

RATNER: How about Jake Zeitlin's gallery? Because wasn't 
he more oriented towards prints? 

KISTLER: Yes. He was very active in prints. Of course, 
he was more interested in prints than he was in paintings. 


because he didn't have a painting gallery. The Los Angeles 

museum and-- Let's see, that outfit there that was out 

there next to Jake's. Wasn't that the Los Angeles museum 

of--? Hmm. I can't remember. It was the Southern 


RATNER: In the thirties? 

KISTLER: Yes, yes. Helen Wurdemann was-- 

RATNER: I think I came across her name somewhere. I'll 

have to check. Her name sounds familiar to me. I'll have 

to check on that, but that does sound familiar. 

KISTLER: Yes. I ought to be able to tell you these 

things, but I'm just [snaps fingers] -- 

RATNER: That's all right. I'll check on that and then we 

can talk about it next time. 

KISTLER: Do you know where that gallery is out there? It 


RATNER: I don't know where it was originally. I know on 

La Cienega [Boulevard] . 

KISTLER: Yes, and it was next door to Jake Zeitlin's 

place. I can't remember what that was called, and I am an 

honorary member there, too. I can't think of it. I can't 

be sure of the name. 

LELAH KISTLER: Is it in your date book? 

KISTLER: Yes, I think it is. Southern California, it 

might be that. Or it might be Los Angeles. I can't 


remember now. [Los Angeles Art Association] 
RATNER: So that was located, though, next to the Zeitlin 
gallery, and it was interested in prints also? 
KISTLER: Yes. Then there was another lady that had a 
gallery. That was along in the sixties and seventies. 
RATNER: Yes, a little later. And I know there were some 
more in the forties, too, that I'll want to talk to you 
about in a few minutes. 

RATNER: What about some of the artists that you worked 
with during the thirties? For example, I know you worked 
with Conrad Buff and Palmer Schoppe. How did you happen to 
meet them? 

KISTLER: Well, I think that they came into my place. Or I 
may have looked them up. I called on a lot of the artists 
and would go around and see them and talk to them about 
doing lithographs. I'd try to get them interested in it. 
Palmer Schoppe, I don't remember just how I did meet him, 
but he worked with me. He was one of the early ones that I 
worked with, because he was my assistant for quite a little 
while. I tried to get him to take up the printing of 
lithography, but I couldn't get anybody else interested in 
doing the printing. I was going to do the promotion, but I 
had to do the promotion and the printing, too. 
[laughter] I didn't have much choice. I had to do 


everything. I had to provide the gallery, I had to do the 

printing of the prints and had to promote it and everything 

else. I used to take my press apart and take it around the 

city here in various places. I don't mind telling you that 

it really was a job to do. 

RATNER: I bet! It must have been very heavy. 

KISTLER: Yes. Sometimes it was upstairs and things like 

that, but I'd take it down in order just to make one 

demonstration, you know, get people interested in it. I 

think that I did encourage the first interest in 

lithography. But it was too much of a job. I had to do it 

all. There was nobody else that was interested in it. 

There was the man at the Times . These names escape me just 

when I want them. I can't think. He was editor, the art 

editor of the Los Angeles Times . He was very helpful in 

promoting the work, and he gave my gallery and my work 

quite a bit of publicity, and the artists that I was 

working with. 

RATNER: Is that Arthur Millier? 

KISTLER: Arthur Millier, yes. He was very active. He 

really deserves an awful lot of credit for putting this 

city on the map as far as art was concerned. He was very 

active in telling people about the new artists and the 

artists that were accomplishing something. 

RATNER: So when you were printing for these early artists. 


how did that work? Most of the people would take a stone 

or a zinc plate to their studio and then come back and have 

you print it? Or did they work in your studio? What was 

the set-up? 

KISTLER: Well, the setup was-- I ran a school, too. 


RATNER: When was that? That was like in the forties, I 


KISTLER: Yes, in the fifties, sixties. When I was on 

Third and Carondelet. 

RATNER: Yes. What about when you were first starting out 

in the thirties there? 

KISTLER: Well, I got interested in lithography. My father 

[William A. Kistler] bought an offset press. 

RATNER: Right, we talked about that. 

KISTLER: And we couldn't get an awful lot of information. 

The craft was closed pretty well. 

RATNER: Right, you were telling me about that. So when 

you were able to entice the artists to work, to get them 

interested in lithography during the thirties, were they 

working right in your studio, or were you taking the things 

to them? 

KISTLER: Well, I didn't have a studio to start with. It 

was my father's business. My first impulse was to learn 

more about lithography and find out about it. I couldn't 


get information on it, and we had a lot of misinformation. 
We had workmen that had secrets that if we lost the 
workmen, why, we lost our ability to produce work. So the 
time that my father got into lithography was a time in 
which there was a conversion being made. There's two 
things that had happened: there had been an offset press 
invented, which made high-speed production possible, and 
there was a tremendous step forward in photography, in the 
accuracy with which they could make negatives. Whereas 
they used to have to do a lot of staging and etching and 
photoengraving and a lot of handwork on the negatives and 
on the plates to make them, they got the negatives to the 
point where they could take a photograph or anything and 
they could make a halftone of it and just print it directly 
on the metal and not have to do a lot of handwork on it. 
When they got to that point, why, then it was applicable to 
the lithography. It wasn't possible to do that before 
because you couldn't work by hand on the lithograph 
negatives to correct them if it needed correcting. When 
they got to the point where they could put the subject up 
and photograph it and make a halftone and get an accurate 
reproduction without a lot of excess handwork, why, then 
they could go ahead and apply lithography to general 
printing. When we got to the point where we could do 
halftone work, why, then we could expand into the 


letterpress market, and we converted a lot of the 
letterpress work to lithography. 

So, in order to understand the situation from start to 
finish, I went clear back and got books on lithography, the 
few that existed, which probably-- The Fuchs and Lang 
[Manufacturing Company] book on lithography [ The Invention 
of Lithography ] was just about all that was available in 
English, and one or two English books that were available 
that I had access to. I got stones and just started in 
working. And then I would go out to-- I was doing sales 
work at that time, and I'd go to the advertising agencies 
and people who were doing artwork and I would talk to them 
about it. I would get them to sketch on the zinc plates at 
first, and then I commenced to get stones and-- 
RATNER: So you brought the stones and the plates to the 

KISTLER: Yes. They would make drawings on the plates or 
the stones, and I would print them and would give them ten 
copies and keep ten copies for myself. I got so interested 
in it that I finally bought material, bought equipment, and 
took it out to my home and worked in my garage. I'd get 
home at night and work for a couple of hours after I got 
home, and I'd put in my Saturdays and Sundays making 
lithographs. A lot of the work was done for nothing. I 
couldn ' t charge for the work that I was doing when I was 


printing it at my home, because it was in a residential 

district and the people objected to it. So the only way 

that I'd get by was to just print and give the artist some 

of the prints and keep some myself. 

RATNER: I see. 

KISTLER: That was the only way that I worked for two or 

three years. A good many of the things that I made for 

Jean Chariot, the first ones, were done that way. 

RATNER: After you had been printing for a little while, I 

guess, you began using your chop, which is a stylized "LK" 

in a circle. Do you remember when you began to use that? 

KISTLER: Well, that was after I established the studio at 

Third and Carondelet. 

RATNER: Oh, so that was later. 

KISTLER: Yes, that was later. That was in the forties and 


RATNER: Who designed that? 

KISTLER: Well, the Marsh Art Service drew it for me. I'd 

laid it out. I told them what I wanted, and it just kind 

of evolved. 

RATNER: How unusual was it to use a chop at that time? 

KISTLER: Well, there had been some artists that had used 

it, but they hadn't made a real practice of it. I was the 

one that got it started and got it going. There was nobody 

else that was doing it regularly that I know of. 


RATNER: Did anybody raise objections to your using it, any 
of the artists or anything? 

KISTLER: No, none of them. They were glad to have the 
chop on there. 

RATNER: Okay. Also, just to jump back to the thirties a 
little bit, I was wondering how aware you were of the 
activities and efforts of the New York-based Associated 
American Artists, particularly during the thirties. In 
doing some research--I think it was during the thirties--! 
noticed that you printed some lithographs for them, and I 
wondered how that all happened. 

KISTLER: Well, that came through Jean Chariot. It was 
Jean Chariot's prints that I did. He was out here, and 
they wanted him to make lithographs, and they sent the 
order out here. Jean drew them on the stone, and I printed 
them and sent them back to New York. That's the way that I 
got that. He was the only one that I ever printed for for 
the Associated American Artists. Most of that work was 
done in the East. Millard [Sheets] had been in business 
for quite a while at that time. 

RATNER: I know part of their idea during the thirties was-- 
I guess they were maybe the first group to start packaging 
and marketing prints. I read that they wanted to market 
them through department stores and mail subscriptions and 
that they really believed that there was a market for the 


$5 print. I wondered at the time how you felt about that 
whole concept . 

KISTLER: Well, I thought that $5 was pretty low for the 
prints. We had to compete with them, of course. But it 
was a lot of work to do. When you figure that the artists 
today are getting $5 and $10 apiece just for pulling one 
print-- We had to print prints for as low as fifty cents 
apiece for Associated American Artists. They were taking 
advantage of the situation amongst the lithographers to get 
a low price. I think that that is the reason that it 
didn't work out, because they didn't make the prints 
valuable enough. They didn't put a high enough price on 
them. Gee whiz, just hinky-dink artists today get $200 and 
$300 for one print. 
RATNER: At least. 

KISTLER: Yes. All of them think that they ought to have 
more than that, too. But, gee, we were selling prints for 
$5 and $10. The prices were too low and there wasn't a 
high enough value placed on the work. There is a print 
right there- - 
RATNER: The Chariot? 

KISTLER: Chariot, yes. Chariot priced that print at about 
ten dollars, and the last price that I saw on it was 
$600. This print here of Macdonald-Wright , that print, the 
last price I saw on it was about $1,750. 


RATNER: So they've gone up a lot. Prices have escalated. 

KISTLER: Yes. This print of Millard Sheets, I think I 

sold that for $1,200. I don't know what price is on it 

now. But we didn't value the work high enough. That was 

the trouble. And there was some beautiful work done. 

RATNER: How much impact do you feel the Depression had on 

the fact that people weren't buying prints during the 


KISTLER: [laughter] I think that lithography took a 

beating along with the rest of the things- - 

RATNER: Right, it would seem like that would happen. 

KISTLER: Yeah. People didn't buy more prints because they 

were cheaper and they could afford them. All of us had 

difficulties with money at that time. Things were cheap. 

You have no idea how cheap things were, how inexpensive it 

was to live in those days, back in the thirties. 

LELAH KISTLER: She wasn't alive then. 

RATNER: No. [laughter] Just from reading my history. 

KISTLER: We used to get a hot dog or a hamburger for 

fifteen cents. A dime for a hot dog or fifteen cents for a 

hamburger. You can imagine that-- [laughter] They get four 

dollars and five dollars for just one hamburger today. Of 

course, they fancy them up a little bit, but there isn't a 

difference there, I can tell you. [laughter] 

RATNER: I also wanted to ask you what you knew about a 


group called the California Printmakers. Does that ring a 


KISTLER: Well, I just knew of them. That was all. I had 

some of them that worked on this-- I can't recall a lot of 

these names now. [inaudible] Los Angeles Art Association 

is what I was thinking of. 

RATNER: And that was a print gallery? 


LELAH KISTLER: They were on 325 North La Cienega Boulevard. 

KISTLER: Yes, they were right next door to Jake Zeitlin. 

Helen Wurdemann was really a-- She contributed an awful lot 

to the print world here, the promotion of it and 

everything. Do you know her? Do you remember? 

RATNER: No. As I said, in doing the research I know that 

I came across that name, because it sounded familiar. But 

there was very little information on her. That's why it 

didn't stick with me. 

KISTLER: I think that she would be a very good one to do. 

RATNER: Is she still alive, do you know? 

KISTLER: The last that I heard. I hadn't heard that she 

passed away. No. 

RANIER: I was asking about that group, the California 

Printmakers, because I know in doing the research I came 

across something about the Cleveland Print Club, which, I 

guess, was one of the most famous print clubs for selling 


subscriptions and having works printed by very well known 
artists. I just wondered-- I couldn't find anything about 
the California Printmakers, and I wondered if they did 
anything similar to that, you know, whether you had printed 
anything for them. 

KISTLER: No. They were just a group of artists, and they 
were mostly etchers. 
RATNER: I see. 

KISTLER: Let's see, there's one girl that's still-- I can't 
remember her name. Gee, I'm sorry that I'm so fuzzy about 
these names. If you had been in touch with me a couple of 
years ago, I could have given them all to you, but I just 
cannot recall a lot of them now. [tape recorder off] 

And then here, this is a book of prints that I think I 
sold to Lord. 
RATNER: Jack Lord? 
KISTLER: Jack Lord. 

RATNER: And those are the things that went to the 
Smithsonian [Institution]? 
KISTLER: I think so. 

RATNER: Okay. Well, that will be a good thing to go over 
later, maybe at the time you sold those. You didn't sell 
those till like the sixties or seventies, right? 
KISTLER: Yes, that's correct. 


JANUARY 10, 1989 

KISTLER: --Southern California something. I can't recall 

just what it is now. 

RATNER: That's the Los Angeles Art Association, run by 

Helen Wurdemann? You were just mentioning Stephen 

Longstreet. He was involved with that? 

KISTLER: Well, I think that he is president now, or had 

been for the last four or five years. But that has been a 

print gallery principally. 

RATNER: And so you showed your work there also? 

KISTLER: Yes, I showed my work there and other galleries, 

the Dalzell Hatfield Gallery and there were some other 

galleries I can't remember. There's a gallery out in 

Beverly Hills that-- 

RATNER: I know a number opened in Beverly Hills in the 

forties. There were a lot more galleries then. But I just 

wanted to go ahead and finish up the thirties, if that was 

okay. Because one thing that you spent a lot of time doing 

during the thirties was printing books with Merle Armitage. 


RATNER: I thought maybe we could talk a little bit more 

about that. There apparently was an exhibition of the 

books that you printed in 1975 at Cal[ifornia] State 

University, Northridge. They put together a catalog. So I 


have a copy of that here with a list of the various books 
that you did. Although you printed beyond the thirties, it 
seems like the majority of the books that you printed with 
Merle Armitage, in particular, were done in the thirties. 
So I thought if it was okay with you, I'd just ask you 
about some of the books, and you could tell me what you 
remembered about printing those or if there was anything 
particularly special about the books. I know last time we 
talked about the first book you did with Merle Armitage, 
which was The Work of Maier-Krieg . 

RATNER: How did that whole project, the very first one, 
come into being? 

KISTLER: Well, Merle Armitage was the manager of the Los 
Angeles Grand Opera Company. I had a friend by the name of 
Carl Haverlin, who is a lifelong friend. He was quite 
active around town. He worked for me for a while as a 
salesman. He called on Merle. He's the one that 
introduced me to Merle, brought Merle down to my place and 
showed him what we were doing and the fact that we had put 
in an offset press and that we were a progressive firm and 
trying to get ahead in the world. So Merle was interested 
in designing books. He designed, I guess, some hundred 
different books, and I printed about fifty of them. I 
printed the first ones. I printed Eugen Maier-Krieg and 


the work of Richard Day [ The Lithographs of Richard Day ] . 
He was interested, too, in the fact that we could print by 
offset rather than by letterpress. I had three of the 
books that were accepted as Fifty Books of the Year [by the 
American Institute of Graphic Arts] . The first Picture 
Book was one that we printed by offset. It was done in 
from four to eight colors. There were thirty- two pictures, 
mostly material from Mexico. Jean Chariot had just come up 
from Mexico, where he had been making sketches of the stone 
work at Chichen Itza. He came to Los Angeles here and met 
Merle Armitage, and Merle Armitage brought him into my 
place. That way we got started on it, and that's the way I 
got started on the books of Merle's. We felt as though we 
were taking a step forward in printing books that were hand 
drawn and also printed by lithography rather than 
letterpress. Because up to that time, practically all book 
work was done by letterpress rather than lithography. 
Lithography at that time had degenerated into box labels 
and things of that sort. Stationery and fruit-crate 
labels. There's quite a collection on those, too. There's 
been a lot of work done on those box labels and been quite 
an interest in them, too. 

RATNER: So when you and Merle Armitage would get together 
to work on a book, for example, what was your part in the 
whole process? Did he make all the aesthetic decisions 


ahead of time, or how involved were you with that? 
KISTLER: Well, I would work along with him. We'd consult 
together just what type we were going to use and how we 
were going to set it. The format was very often left to 
me. I would make up a dummy. Then Merle would sketch out 
the way that he thought it ought to be, and I would 
interpret it and type. My father had a very fine 
collection of type. We had one of the best type 
collections in the city. I had quite a bit of latitude in 
what we could do with putting type together in various 
ways. Merle would make a sketch of it, and I would make 
the type and the size in the way that it was to be set and 
oversee that it was set properly for the book. 
RATNER: So it was a real collaboration? 
KISTLER: It was a collaboration, yes. 

RATNER: I think it was the third book, at least according 
to this catalog, that you printed with Merle Armitage that 
was one of the ones you mentioned that was one of the 
American Institute of Graphic Arts' Fifty Books of the 
Year. That was on Warren Newcombe? 
KISTLER: Yes. [ Warren Newcombe ] 

RATNER: And that had a photograph of Newcombe by Edward 
Weston, it looks like. 
RATNER: What do you remember about that project? 


KISTLER: Well, Newcombe was an employee at the Metro- 
Goldwyn-Mayer company. He had a studio there, and he had a 
key to it. I think I told you this before. 

KISTLER: He had his own studio at Metro-Goldwyn. He is 
the man that worked out this proposition where-- They had 
to have a scene on, say, the capitol steps. Of course, 
they couldn't build the whole thing, but they would have to 
make a set of maybe the steps. Then they would take a 
picture of the capitol. They would photograph each one of 
those separately and put them together. It would be the 
actual top of the capitol, and they would fit the other 
material that they needed for the lower half. They would 
make a set of that. They would put those together, believe 
it or not, all of the columns and everything fitting. If 
they happened to cut them in half or anything like that, it 
would come perfect. You wouldn't be able to-- You couldn't 
tell because they-- And they still do it, I think. They 
just build a part of the set and then take a picture of 
something else and fit the lower part with a motion picture 
set. Isn't that amazing? 

RATNER: It is. I didn't realize it was done like that. 
KISTLER: So that was the kind of man that Warren Newcombe 
was. He was the one that worked it out. Metro-Goldwyn 
valued his work and everything, but they failed to renew 


his contract when it came due. So when he didn't have a 
new contract, he had the only keys to this studio, and he 
just walked away. They didn't know where he'd gone or 
anything. Metro-Goldwyn closed down for two weeks because 
they didn ' t know where Warren Newcombe had gone or why or 
how to get ahold of him or what to do, and they didn't have 
the keys to the place. They didn't have anybody that 
understood it if they did have the keys. So they were good 
boys when he came back. [laughter] He got his contract 
amended. They didn't neglect to sign him up. 
RATNER: And get an extra copy of the keys. [laughter] 
KISTLER: No, they never got an extra copy of the key. But 
the method is generally known now. 

RATNER: There's a little picture on here of the cover of 
that particular book. Then at the bottom, I guess, it was 
published by-- 
KISTLER: E. Weyhe. 

RATNER: I came across their name a lot in association with 
your work with Armitage. What--? 

KISTLER: Well, Weyhe handled the books in New York. 
Armitage had an agreement with E. Weyhe, and he worked with 
E. Weyhe. E. Weyhe sold a lot of books that we printed 
together. I don't know where Merle got the money, but he 
always came up with enough to-- That was the principal 
thing, as far as we were concerned, [laughter] getting the 


books paid for. Then we collaborated on the printing of 

the books and the design. We collaborated on that. We did 

the printing. 

RATNER: So there were five hundred copies of that one 



RATNER: It seems like a lot of books. Was it a lot of 

books? I mean, for somebody-- How well known was Warren 

Newcombe that they would have been able to sell five 

hundred books? 

KISTLER: Well, you've got something there. [laughter] 

Five hundred books proved to be an awful lot. The first 

Picture Book , before we got through, we had sold a good 

many of them. 

RATNER: Then here's another one, also from 1932--you were 

busy that year — The Art of Edward Weston . [laughter] 


RATNER: And that was also distributed by this E. Weyhe. 


RATNER: It had thirty-nine plates? 

KISTLER: Yes. We printed that to letterpress. I've 

forgotten just how many reproductions of Edward Weston's 

work-- About thirty or forty reproductions of his work. It 

was one of the finest letterpress, halftone jobs that had 

been done. 


RATNER: This particular book was inscribed, too. It says, 
"Inscribed to L. K. , a real craftsman. Ever since we first 
met, I knew that no effort would be spared to make this 
book a splendid work. In gratitude, Edward." 

RATNER: That's nice. So what do you remember about 
working with Edward Weston? I guess you printed two books 
of his work? 

RATNER: But what do you remember about that first 
experience? He obviously was very happy with you. 
KISTLER: Yes. Well, it was an unusual thing. It was a 
large book. I think it was 12" X 16" in size, something 
like that in size. It was one of the Fifty Books of the 
Year. It was the finest reproduction of Edward Weston's 
work that had been done at that time. He was very much 
pleased with it. 

It took us a whole week to get the first form 
printed. We just printed two illustrations at the time. 
It was quite a long job. It took a lot of skillful work. 
We had worked out a couple of blocks of metal that we 
thought would anchor the thing right so that there couldn't 
possibly be any difficulty about printing it at all. We 
found out, when we got started, that we couldn't get it to 
print. It took us a whole week. We worked on it. We 


would get streaks in it and we didn't know why. We thought 
maybe the blocks were rocking, you know. But inasmuch as 
we had metal foundations for them--and blocks are usually 
mounted on wood, you know- -we thought that there would just 
be no chance of getting any slur in them at all. So we 
were just about to give up on the thing because we couldn't 
get the streaks out of it. A pressman came in on Friday 
afternoon. He wanted to know if he could get a job. So we 
told him that we had a problem and if he could solve it, 
why, he'd have a job. He went back and he worked for a 
little while and got the press all set up and the ink all 
set and everything. Then he went and got a gasoline can, 
and he poured it on these plates that we had. He lit the 
gasoline, and it heated those plates, and they printed. 
RATNER: My goodness! You must have been surprised. 
KISTLER: Well, we were certainly relieved after that, 
because we had a lot of money tied up in the cuts. We'd 
had the cuts made already, the plates made. Los Angeles 
Engraving Company furnished the plates. We gave them 
credit for it, and they were glad to do it. About thirty- 
two plates, and they were about the actual size of Edward's 
work. They were very fussy in working out Edward's work, 
because in photographing, Edward didn't have small films 
that he enlarged. All of his work is photographed on 
negatives the same size as the photographic print that he 


makes from them. He just does it complete. So they're all 
big negatives. None of these small negatives or 
anything. It was really quite an accomplishment all the 
way through: working it out, getting a plate company that 
would make the plates for us, and also printing them after 
we got them made. We were afraid we weren't going to be 
able to print them, they were so large. We had excellent 
equipment, too, and we had a very good pressman outside of 
this man that came in. But this man that came in was just 
an itinerant printer and had run into trouble like that 
before. Just put a little gasoline on it, on each one of 
the plates, and then he would light it. It would get warm, 
and he would start his press and get his job off. So 
there ' s more than one way to skin a cat in the printing 

RATNER: Yeah, that's a great story. [laughter] 
KISTLER: We were amazed. My father had been at the 
business for thirty-five years at that time, and I knew a 
little bit about printing then, but there's always a new 
trick in the printing business. There's always some way to 
overcome difficulties that you have. So that the printing 
of the Edward Weston book was quite an accomplishment. It 
was quite a triumph when we got it done. And it became one 
of the Fifty Books of the Year. 
RATNER: So two of the books you printed that year--which 


was the first year it looks like you printed books --became 

one of the Fifty Books of the Year. Because Warren 

Newcombe was printed in ' 32 and the Edward Weston book was 

printed in '32. 


RATNER: So that was quite a way to begin. 


RATNER: That's great. Another book you printed in '32 was 

on Rockwell Kent [ Rockwell Kent ] . 


RATNER: This one says, "Printed under the supervision of 

Lynton Kistler, " whereas the other ones have said, "Printed 

by." What was the difference there? 

KISTLER: Gee, I don't think there was any difference, 

really. It was printed by lithography. 

RATNER: How well did you know Rockwell Kent? 

KISTLER: I never met him. He was one of Merle Armitage's 

customers, one of the people that Merle Armitage admired. 

He wanted to do a book on Rockwell Kent. 

RATNER: Okay. We talked about the Picture Book last 

time. Then another one that was done in '33 was the work 

of Henrietta Shore. 

KISTLER: Yes. [laughter] Well, that was an amusing 

situation, too. We had all of the plates on Henrietta 

Shore's book [Henrietta Shore] made. Jean Chariot came to 


town at that time. It was when we first contacted Jean 
Chariot. The Henrietta Shore book was one of Merle 
Armitage's babies. Jean Chariot saw the work that we were 
doing then on it and he said, "Well, I'd like to make the 
frontispiece for it. " So there was a frontispiece added to 
this book by Jean Chariot, and Henrietta Shore didn't know 
anything about it at all. He did a portrait of Henrietta 
Shore. It was a modern version and did nothing to 
compliment Henrietta Shore's looks. She was furious when 
she saw this thing. There are only two hundred of those 
books printed. She became reconciled to it finally, but it 
raised quite a ruckus for a while when it was published. 
RATNER: She was a local artist? 

KISTLER: No. She was of that group up there in Carmel . 
RATNER: Okay. Then how about another one from 1934? That 
was--I was just curious--a book called Elise . Was that 
Armitage's wife at the time? 
KISTLER: Yes. [Elise Cavanna Seeds] 

RATNER: So now he's only printing the books in copies of 
two hundred. I guess maybe-- 

KISTLER: Yes. Well, some of them are more or less 
promotional work, you know? On the record, there were 
people that hadn't pushed to made a big splash, but their 
work needed promotional work, and that was one way to 
promote it. 


RATNER: You said you don't know how he was able to finance 

all these projects. 

KISTLER: Well, he got his friends to put up the money on 

it. He was doing very well himself. He was manager of the 

Los Angeles Grand Opera Company, and he made a good salary 

and spent most of it on this kind of work. 

RATNER: This one also had a portrait of Elise. It says, 

"Drawn directly on the zinc plate and hand colored by 

Beatrice Wood." 

KISTLER: Yes. Yes, that's true. Elise and Beatrice Wood 

were good friends. They were both screwy artists. 


RATNER: And you had both of them included in your show 

that you did at the Stendahl Gallery ["Impressions Printed 

by Hand from Stone and Zinc by Lynton Kistler at the 

Stendahl Gallery"]. 

KISTLER: That's right, I did. 

RATNER: Okay, here's one from 1935 on Millard Sheets. It 

says "Millard Sheets in Los Angeles, Dalzell Hatfield." 

KISTLER: Yes. Well, Hatfield put up the money on that 


RATNER: I see. 

KISTLER: Of course, Dalzell Hatfield was handling all of 

his work at that time, all of Millard Sheets 's work. So he 

was glad to promote it and put up-- So that was a book 


[ Millard Sheets ] that I printed for Millard Sheets. 
RATNER: Had you worked with Millard Sheets prior to this? 
KISTLER: I'm just trying to think. Yes, I had. We 
printed a great big lithograph in four colors. It was one 
of the largest things I ever did. It was printed on a 
sheet 35" X 45" in four colors for the WPA [Works Progress 
Administration] process. It was a WPA project. They were 
making work for the artists, and Millard furnished it. It 
was drawn in four colors. That's an awfully big plate, you 
know, 35" X 45". I saw one for sale up in Santa Rosa for, 
I don't know, I think it was $1,200 or something like 
that. It was one of those prints that we made for the WPA 
people. Millard probably got a couple of copies, and that 
gallery [Annex Gallery] up there was handling a lot of 
Millard's work. 

RATNER: This particular copy that they had in the 
exhibition was inscribed, "This copy for the fine printer 
Ward Ritchie, 1935, from Merle Armitage." How well did you 
know Ward Ritchie? 

KISTLER: Well, I knew him very well. We conferred 
together. We went over each other's work and were 
interested in each other's work. We get together every 
once in a while and meet in various places, have 
meetings. Ward's a very fine printer, a very good 
designer, and we're very good friends. 


RATNER: So there were a thousand copies of Millard 
Sheets ' s book printed? 

KISTLER: Well, Millard was a little more ambitious, and I 
think he paid for printing on that. I've seen copies of 
that book for sale at Millard's shows, oh, as recently as 
ten years ago. So he used it for promotion for quite a 
long time. 

RATNER: Was there any text in a book like that? Had Merle 
Armitage written something about Millard Sheets or--? 
KISTLER: Yes. Merle usually wrote an article in each one 
of the books. He had something to say about it. He had an 
opinion on everything that there was. [laughter] 
RATNER: So it seems. [laughter] 

KISTLER: It was an opportunity for him to express himself 
and make himself known. He was very knowledgeable. He was 
a very active man and into everything, acquainted with 
everybody. He knew everyone and was interested in things 
like grand opera and people that were talented. Mary 
Garden was one of his outstanding-- He had the running of 
her productions for a while and did quite a bit of work for 
her and brought her things to the Los Angeles area. You've 
heard of her, presumably, Mary Garden? Never heard of 
her? She was as big as, oh, any of the big stars that you 
have today. 
RATNER: She was a singer? 


LELAH KISTLER: Grand opera. 
RATNER: Grand opera. 

KISTLER: Yes. A singer. Mary Garden. So Merle was 
interested in telling about these people. He had some 
weird experiences with them. One time, the [Los Angeles] 
Philharmonic [Orchestra] was held up. He had all of the 
cash in the bottom of the drawer that he had taken in. 
And, of course, he had to pay off the Philharmonic and give 
Mary Garden her cut on the thing and pay all of his 
advertising expenses and everything on top of that. 
Shortly after the show had opened, why, this man came and 
stuck a gun in his ribs. He had put this money in a false 
bottom in a drawer. He pulled the drawer out and he says, 
"Eh? There's nothing here." I don't know, there was some 
change or something like that, a few dollars. This robber 
took that. But it was a pretty courageous thing to do, to 
open the drawer and say, "Here, look. There's nothing in 
there. You can take it all if you want it." He said, 
"That was sent to the bank already. There's nothing you 
can do about it." All of his income from this appearance 
of this outstanding star-- He had sold out the house and 
had I don't know how many thousand dollars in that bottom 
drawer that he had to protect. The police department told 
him he was silly for doing it, but he was that kind of a 
guy. He got away with whatever he was doing. [laughter] 


He didn't let anybody put anything over on him. 

RATNER: Okay. Well, I think we need to wrap it up here 

for today, but we'll continue on talking about the books 

next time. You can tell me any other stories you remember 

about Merle Armitage, and then we'll go on and talk about 

Jean Chariot. 

KISTLER: All right. 

RATNER: Okay? 

KISTLER: All right. I'll try to be better prepared. 

RATNER: No, you don't-- You just leave the work to me. 


JANUARY 17, 1989 

RATNER: When we ended our last meeting, you were telling 
me how Merle Armitage had been robbed when he was working 
at the Los Angeles Grand Opera Company, and then you said 
that he had had many unusual experiences. I was wondering 
what you remember about some of those experiences. 
KISTLER: Well, I remember that he had a theatrical company 
come over from Russia and land in Seattle, and they just 
attached themselves to him. It was one of the most 
remarkable experiences that you ever heard of. It was 
completely unorganized and without finances at all, and it 
really created quite a stir in the United States here. It 
was one of the first Russian cultural things that came to 
this country. It was very colorful. Armitage was one of 
those men that could take an unorganized thing with a lot 
of hazards in it, without finances and everything else. He 
took it throughout the United States, and it made quite an 
impress. It was one of the first cultural things from 
Russia that we had here. I didn't have anything to do with 
it, so it was just one of those stories he told about. 

Most of his things were done without a great deal of 
organization. He took the loose ends and put them together 
so that they really were enjoyed by the people of the 
country. He took the shows and people like Mary Garden and 


others throughout the United States and was an impresario 
and an outstanding cultural developer on the Pacific Coast 
here. He was responsible for the introduction of Edward 
Weston's work, and he was very enthusiastic about anyone 
that he ran into and any cultural thing. 

He was very aggressive in helping me promote my 
work. He was very much interested in the fact that what I 
was doing was introducing something to this coast here and 
to the West. It turned out to be the United States, that 
my work got to be known throughout the country. He gave me 
a lot of encouragement and a lot of information on how to 
go about it, to introduce lithography to the artists. He 
was interested in artists. He knew many of the working 
artists and he brought them into contact with me. He also 
did everything he could to promote my work, and he gave me 
quite a few things, like that Laura Knight and those others 
that we spoke about. He was never heavily financed 
himself, I mean in his own right, but he was able to get a 
good many people to put up money to have the books printed 
that he was interested in. He did an awful lot to promote 
the work of authors and things like that and people that 
had accomplished things. The first book that I did with 
him was Eugen Maier-Krieg [ The Work of Maier-Krieg ] . 
Maier-Krieg was a German who came to this country, and his 
work was outstanding. Merle raised money to print a book 


which cost quite a bit, and it was an experiment on our 
part, too. 

It was the first book that we attempted to publish at 
the Kistler Company when we put in the lithograph 
equipment. It was really over our heads in a lot of ways, 
but we had the complete outfit and we had a man with us by 
the name of Ludwig Melzner who we bought the lithographic 
equipment from. We had a complete printing plant for the 
conversion of all kinds of printed matter to printing by 
the lithographic method, the offset method/lithographic 
method rather than the letterpress method. We turned quite 
a bit of our work over into the lithographic method, and it 
entailed a tremendous amount of information that was not 
available, only through our workmen and one or two books 
that were available. 

The lithographic work had become almost a label 
business entirely. By the time that we got into it, it had 
become offset lithography, and they had dispensed with the 
stone work, except that they would put an original on stone 
and then they would pull transfers from that and stick a 
lot of them up on a plate. It was used more for printing 
labels and colors. It was used also for printing of 
stationery. Now, that was about the extent of the 
lithographic work when it came into our hands. The people 
who were established in the lithographic work in Los 


Angeles-- There was the Neuner Stationery Company and there 
was the Los Angeles Lithograph Company. The Neuner 
lithograph company, they didn't attempt to convert ordinary 
printed matter to the offset lithograph method. 

Ludwig Melzner didn't have the financing to carry his 
work on. He had a lithograph press and he had a camera and 
all the facilities that went with the method of 
lithography, and we depended upon him for the information, 
the initial information. We expanded our work so that we 
made our plates in the plant and did all of the operations 
that were necessary for the lithographic business. In the 
printing business we bought our printing plates out. It 
was done by photoengraving. But the lithography allowed us 
to go ahead and convert ordinary printing into-- Well, to 
produce ordinary printing by the offset lithograph 
method. It was due to the fact that photography had 
developed to quite an extent. There had been a lot of 
improvement in the quality of negatives that we get. But 
there was a lot that we needed to know besides what we 
could get out of our workmen, which was available from 
talking to others that had lithographic equipment. But we 
went ahead and actually converted a lot of printed matter 
to the offset lithographic method. This book of Eugen 
Maier-Krieg ' s, it was a book of his sculpturing. He was 
one of the outstanding sculptors of that particular 


period. His work was fairly well known, and the book 
itself created quite a sensation, because it came out 

We could do a lot of things with lithography that we 
couldn't do very well with letterpress printing. 
Letterpress printing might-- If we had halftone work, why, 
we had to use a very smooth, slick-coated paper. With the 
offset lithography, why, we could print on papers that were 
rough and papers that were antiques and things like that. 
It made it possible to do a lot of very creative work. 
Also, the fact that we could make our own plates allowed us 
quite a bit of latitude, because you could actually stand 
over them and see what was being done. But we did need a 
lot of information that wasn't available to us through 
books or through our workmen, so I undertook to go back 
clear to the stone printing and research it and build it up 
and see the steps it had gone through in order to bring it 
to the point of offset lithography. 

RATNER: I was wondering, then, how long did it take to 
print the Maier-Krieg book? I mean, from the beginning of 
the project to the end, since it was the first one, was it 
a rather lengthy process? 

KISTLER: Well, it was in the plant a month or maybe a 
month and a half. 
RATNER: And was that about average or--? 


KISTLER: Yes, yes, it was. I don't know whether I told 

you that [Jean Chariot] was just back from Mexico-- 

RATNER: Right, we talked about that last time. We got 

that on tape. 

KISTLER: Yeah, yeah. And the making of Picture Book . 

RATNER: Right, we talked about that. We talked about a 

number of the books that you printed during the early 

thirties, but we didn't talk about all of the books that I 

wanted to talk about, so I thought maybe we could go on and 

continue talking about some of the books that you printed 

with Merle Armitage. Another one I wanted to ask you about 

was called [ Giovanni ] Napolitano; Fifteen Reproductions of 

His Work . 


RATNER: What do you recall about that? What kind of an 

artist was he? 

KISTLER: Well, he was a muralist and a working artist and 

not very well known. The book that we printed for him was 

a rather small one, and it was done in one color. It 

wasn't as elaborate as the book that we printed for Maier- 

Krieg. The format was smaller, and it was only done in one 

color. It was done to promote Napolitano 's work. 

RATNER: How did Armitage select him as a candidate for a 


KISTLER: Well, Armitage selected him the way he selected 


me: he liked his work and he liked his approach. 

Napolitano's approach to his sculpturing was unusual. He 

had an unusual presentation of his work. He had an unusual 

style, and his background loaned it to an unusual 


RATNER: Where was his home base? 

KISTLER: Los Angeles. 

RATNER: Los Angeles. 

KISTLER: Yes, he was a Los Angeles man. He's still 

living, as a matter of fact, and he has quite a few of the 

Armitage books. I don't believe that there are very many 

of the first Picture Book left, because quite a few of them 

were destroyed. 

RATNER: Oh, really? 

KISTLER: Yes. There were only five hundred printed, which 

is rather a small edition. 

RATNER: Why were some of those Picture Books destroyed? 

KISTLER: Well, they disappeared one way and another. As 

quite a few people were fascinated by the pictures 

themselves, they simply cut them up and framed them. 

RATNER: Oh, I see. So they took them apart, the books 

apart . 

KISTLER: Yes. Did you see one of those books? 

RATNER: I did. Yeah, I enjoyed looking at it. 

Well, here's another one you printed in 1935 that was 


on a little bit different track from the ones we've talked 

about. It was Modern Dance . This one says it was compiled 

by Virginia Stewart, that it was designed by Merle 

Armitage, and printed by you. It had an original 

lithograph drawn directly on the stone by Elise [Cavanna 

Seeds] and hand printed by you. 


RATNER: What do you recall about that book? 

KISTLER: Gee, I don't remember very much about that right 

now. I hadn't thought about that for quite a long time. 

It was one of Merle Armitage 's enthusiasms, one of the 

people that he was very enthusiastic about. He got 

Virginia Stewart to write the book, and we printed it for 


RATNER: Who was Virginia Stewart? 

KISTLER: Virginia Stewart? Well, she was a person that 

was interested in cultural matters and interested in 

dancers and Martha Graham and a number of others that were 

in the limelight at that time. She researched all of these 

people and made quite an outstanding book of their work. 

RATNER: It said inserted in this book--it must have just 

been inserted by the person who owned it--were two articles 

on the Armitage-Kistler collaboration, one by Carl Haverlin 

and one by Jose Rodriguez. I would have liked to have seen 

those articles. Do you happen to have copies of those? 


KISTLER: Gee, I'd forgotten about them altogether. I 

don't know where I could get those. 

RATNER: That would have been nice to have looked at. 

[pause] Okay, now here's another one that was 

interesting. This was a series of concert programs it 

looks like you did for KECA concert programs? 


RATNER: From October 1935 to September 1936. These all 

included wood engravings of the composers on the covers by 

Paul Landacre. 


RATNER: How did you get that project? 

KISTLER: Well, Carl Haverlin was my friend. He was 

program manager at Earl C. Anthony's. Earl C. Anthony had 

the KECA. And Carl was another enthusiast, like Merle, and 

he was enthusiastic about Paul Landacre 's woodblocks. He 

was also enthusiastic about the programs that were being 

put on by KECA. I don't know, it's hard to explain. It 

was a publication like is put out today by the television 

people, you know, to promote their programs. 

RATNER: I see. 

KISTLER: That's what they were, and we printed those. 

That was printed by letterpress rather than lithography. 

It was a letterpress project, because it was all material 

about the musical concerts that were coming up, and it was 


over radio. It wasn't television. It was before the 
development of television. 

Joe Rodriguez, who was at KECA, and Carl Haverlin and, 
oh, another printer-- What was his name? Well, there were 
quite a number of us printers who were interested in Paul 
Landacre's engravings. He has become one of the finest 
wood engravers in the country, and his work is very well 
known. Of course, he's passed on now. He was from the 
Midwest. I believe he was from Ohio, and he was an athlete 
and was very outstanding in athletic work and everything. 
But he contracted this infantile paralysis. It crippled 
him so that he didn't have good control of his limbs and 
things, and he had to take up something besides running. 
So he took up woodcutting. He started out with linoleum 
blocks and finally got down to wood engraving. He bought a 
Washington handpress and not only engraved his blocks, but 
he printed them too. I have one of them here. I don't 
know whether you're acquainted with his work or not. 
RATNER: Yes, it's very beautiful. I've always admired it. 
KISTLER: Yes. But his work was more or less limited 
because he couldn't produce rapidly. His wife helped him 
in his work. They were very, very devoted. She passed on 
in her fifties, I think, and that just devastated him. He 
finally died in a fire. I think he set it himself. He was 
just so despondent, because his wife was so essential to 


his getting on and doing his work. He felt as though he 
had nobody to help him out at that time, so that when she 
passed on, why, that just ended things for him. It was 
really very tragic. 

But what there is left of his work is beautiful, and 
it is well appreciated. Ward Ritchie has printed a book on 
him [ Paul Landacre ] . He did two lithographs with me, and 
his drawing on the stone-- He was a very meticulous worker 
and a beautiful worker, and his concepts were just 
marvelous. He was a natural artist. I steered him away 
from lithography, because it was drawing, and I thought 
that he should just concentrate on woodblocks. So that I 
didn't encourage him to go any further with the 
lithography, although the one or two things that he did 
with me were really quite beautiful. But the woodcutting 
was unique, and he had established himself, more or less, 
for that. He did make a name for himself, and there is no 
other woodcutter that I know in this area that has achieved 
what Paul Landacre did. 

His work was quite beautiful, and it's due to the fact 
that he concentrated on wood engraving rather than working 
in so many areas. Because he just didn't have the time to 
do it. He was a very slow worker, and it was difficult for 
him to work, even with his wife's help. His wife helped 
him at the press, too. She helped him pull the lever on 


the press and exert some of the physical exercise that ' s 

necessary in working a Washington handpress. It's a 

physical thing. It's necessary to exert yourself quite a 


RATNER: There was a show a few years ago at the [Los 

Angeles] County Museum of Art of his work ["Paul Landacre: 

Prints and Drawings," 1983]. Did you happen to see that? 

KISTLER: Yes, I did. Yes. 

RATNER: It was nice. I think they did a small catalog 

with that. 

KISTLER: Yeah. Yes, we went. Do you remember, Lelah? We 

went to see Paul Landacre ' s prints at the Los Angeles 


LELAH KISTLER: I've gone to so many places and seen so 

many people's prints, I'm not sure I remember that 


KISTLER: Don't you remember we were surprised at the way 

that the Los Angeles Museum had been-- 

LELAH KISTLER: Oh, the last time we went up there? 


LELAH KISTLER: Yes. They remodeled the museum and added 

to it and so forth. It's beautiful now. Yes, but I didn't 

remember it was Landacre ' s work in particular. 


RATNER: It was a nice show. Okay, here's another one that 


you did for the Hollywood Bowl, and this was by Isabel 

Morse Jones and designed by Merle Armitage and printed by 

Lynton Kistler. What was that for? 

KISTLER: Well, that was just a history of the Hollywood 

Bowl. It was all typeset, and there was nothing really 

outstanding about it except it was a well-printed job. It 

was another one of those things that Merle Armitage was 

enthusiastic about and promoted. Isabel Morse Jones at 

that time was the historian of the Hollywood Bowl, and it's 

a complete story of the Hollywood Bowl up to the thirties 


RATNER: Right, 1936. It was 203 pages, so I guess it was 

pretty complete. 

KISTLER: Yes. It told how the Bowl was started and the 

people that were connected with it, how it grew. She had 

kept a record of the whole thing. It was a very good 

exposition of the history of the Hollywood Bowl. 

RATNER: Here's another one from 1935 on Stravinsky [ Igor 

Stravinsky ] . I guess this was one that Armitage wrote 

also. "Designed by Merle Armitage, printed under the 

direction of Lynton Kistler, 158 pages." 

KISTLER: Yes, well, that was another one of Armitage 's 

enthusiasms: Stravinsky. He was interested in music. He 

was not a musician himself, but he appreciated people who 

had accomplished things in music, and Stravinsky was one of 


them that he was interested in. He designed the book and-- 

I've forgotten who it was who did some artwork on that. It 

was very nicely done. 

RATNER: On this little thing it doesn't mention that 

there's any artwork. 

KISTLER: Well, it was just design. 

RATNER: I see. Here's one. Two Statements by Pablo 

Picasso . It says, "New York, Los Angeles, Merle Armitage, 

1936, designed by Merle Armitage, printed by Lynton 

Kistler." And bound in was an original lithograph by 

Giovanni Napolitano, pulled from the stone by Lynton 


KISTLER: Gee, I don't remember much about that really. 

RATNER: It seems interesting that it says "two statements 

by Pablo Picasso." I wonder whether Merle Armitage had 

just found those particular statements interesting and 

decided to put them in a book or what. 

KISTLER: Well, I think that that is probably what 

happened, yes. He was in touch with all of these artists 

and musicians. It's quite possible that he did get that 

directly from Picasso. He knew them. He presented them on 

the stage here. Most of these things were done at the [Los 

Angeles] Philharmonic [Orchestra] . He was the manager of 

the Los Angeles Grand Opera Company. In the off-season, 

why, he brought in these people, these musicians. 


RATNER: Where was Armitage's home base? 

KISTLER: Los Angeles. He put in quite a bit of time with 

Edward Weston. He was very much interested in Weston's 

work. I did two books [ The Art of Edward Weston and Fifty 

Photographs by Edward Weston ] on Edward Weston, and 

Armitage got financing for them. It [ The Art of Edward 

Weston] was a large book. It was about 9" X 12" in size, 

and there were thirty-six, I think, reproductions of 

Edward's work. It was printed letterpress, and I think I 

told you the experience we had in starting the book. 

RATNER: Right. 

KISTLER: It was beautifully designed. It was one of the 

[American Institute of Graphic Arts'] Fifty Books of the 


RATNER: Right, that was the earlier one. Right. And I 

know that you did do another one later also, the second 

book. In 1947 was the second one. 


JANUARY 17, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, we were talking about some of the books you 
had printed with Armitage before we flipped the tape. 
Here's another one [ Martha Graham ] from 1937 that was done 
on Martha Graham. You mentioned her a few minutes ago and 
his interest in modern dance. What do you recall about 
that book? 

KISTLER: Well, it was just a book of essays. I've 
forgotten just what the material was on it, but it was just 
a well-printed book. It was done letterpress. It was one 
of the fifty books of Armitage 's that I did. I guess it 
was the first book that was printed on Martha Graham. From 
the standpoint of design, just well printed is all that I 
can say about it. There was no departure there as far as 
printing is concerned. Of course, it was unique because of 
Armitage 's layout and his approach to it and the material 
that was presented. The book was well bound-- It was a 
full-bound book. But it was another book we printed. 
RATNER: It says, "Binding by C. Frank Fox." Was that a 
local firm? 

KISTLER: Yeah. Well, that was a bookbinder that did some 
very good work for us, and he did the binding on quite a 
number of our books. He was a man that was willing to put 
in a little extra effort on his binding work. He was a 


very competent man and he bound, well, I guess, several of 
the books that we printed, if it was a full-bound book. 
RATNER: What does that mean, full bound? 

KISTLER: Well, it means that it had the stiff covers and 
it was bound in cloth. It wasn't a paperback. As a matter 
of fact, all of the books we did were full-bound books. 
Henrietta Shore and the Warren Newcombe book were 
paperbacks. We didn't have the money for a binding, but 
they were well put together, and some people rebound them 
in boards. Full binding, even in those days, was pretty 
expensive and hand sewed, usually. They didn't have the 
automatic machinery for binding. They were put together by 

RATNER: So I guess that added pretty significantly to the 
cost of the book. 

KISTLER: Yes, it did. Then it's amazing the amount of 
progress that there has been made in the printing business 
since I got into it. It is of a different character today-- 
the printing itself--the way that it's put together and 
everything. When I came into it, the average printer was 
just getting to the point where they were getting into 
setting type. I mean, setting type by machinery, and doing 
a lot of it. My father [William A. Kistler] was one of the 
first printers in Los Angeles, commercial printers, to put 
a typesetting machine in. Even newspaper work, when I 


first came into the business, a lot of it was being set by 
hand. It picked up every letter individually and put it 
into a stick and put it together. There were two 
machines. One was the Monotype machine, which my father 
had, and that set and justified, or made the lines all the 
same length, so they came out just as-- Better than you 
could do it by hand setting. It was absolutely perfect 
setting. But they were individual letters. They cast them 
and put them together at the same time. There was a 
keyboard that had-- Like a typewriter, you know. It made 
the letters of different widths just like they were in hand 
setting, and it duplicated hand setting right to a tee, but 
it improved it. It did perfectly what, you know, you were 
doing in the hand setting. That is, it justified those 
lines so that they came out all the same length. It was 
really a marvelous machine. I learned that. I learned to 
run both the keyboard and the caster. I wasn't very good 
at it, but it was one of the things that I got into 
learning in the printing business. 

RATNER: So your father had you learn everything? 
KISTLER: Yes, I was into everything in the plant. I 
didn't do an awful lot of presswork. I did some, but I was 
more interested in the typography, and my father was a 
compositor. He got into the business of setting newspaper 
by hand . 


RATNER: So it seems to have served you well to have 
learned all the bits and pieces. 

KISTLER: Yeah, I got a smattering of all of it. 
RATNER: That's good. 

KISTLER: But I got hooked on the lithography. That was 
the thing that fascinated me more than anything else. It 
is my ambition to have lithography accepted as fine art, 
and I just never had the financing to do it. The artists 
couldn't afford to pay me the modest sums that I asked for 
printing their work, and I didn't have the money to do the 
exploitation that has been done on lithography. It took 
years to do it and it's pretty well accepted now. But it 
was my ambition to get the best artists that were available 
and get their work into the hands of collectors. I gave 
talks all over the city to every organization that would 
listen to me. I'd even take my presses apart. They were 
handpresses. I'd take them apart and take them out and 
give demonstrations for printing, just for one evening. 
One year I took the whole outfit to Sacramento to the 
[California] State Fair and took a bunch of stones, and I 
worked with quite a number of artists up there in San 
Francisco at that time. 

There are a lot of heartbreakers, too, about the 
thing. I wanted to get as many presses as I could, and I 
used a transfer press to do my printing. They were a press 


that was used in the lithographic industry, and they were 
commencing to be phased out. They could make the plates 
without making these transfers. But there was a very neat 
little press that you pull pictures on. There was one firm 
up in San Francisco that had about six or eight of these 
presses. When I came back from Sacramento, why, I made a 
point to stop in at San Francisco to see this firm. I knew 
that they had these presses. I asked and I tried to get 
them to let me buy the presses, and they wouldn't sell any 
of them to me. "Oh," they said, "they might come back 
again a little bit later, " and they might need them. So I 
waited three or four or five years, something like that, 
and I went up to San Francisco again when I was up there. 
I stopped in and asked them if they were willing to turn 
over some of the presses to me, if they were ready to 
release them. They said no, that they had just sold them 
for old iron-- 
RATNER: Oh, no. 

KISTLER: --and that they had that day sent them down to a 
wrecking company, and they broke them up for the iron that 
was in them. I went down to the wrecking company and I 
tried to get the presses, and they said no, they had just 
broken them up. 

RATNER: Oh, that is a heartbreaker . 
KISTLER: It is a heartbreaker, for a fact. 


RATNER: What year was that? About what year? 
KISTLER: Oh, that was during the thirties sometime. I 
can't recall just when it was. One of the big lithograph 
companies in San Francisco found it possible to get rid of 
their stones. They were working on metal then. They had 
gone to offset lithography, so they just had tons of stone, 
great racks of this stone. I was anxious to get stones, 
and I went up there to San Francisco and tried to buy this 
stone from them. My capital was limited, so I could only 
get so much of it. What I wanted to do was go up there 
with a truck and load the truck with all of the stone that 
I could and bring it down to Los Angeles, here. I told 
these people that I would be glad to take a whole load of 
this stone if they would sell it to me. They said, "Oh, 
we'll sell you all that you can pay for, but you will have 
to pay for it in cash. " They took tons of it and dumped it 
into San Francisco Bay, and, of course, it was no good 
after it had been in the salt water, no good at all. It 
really broke my heart. 
RATNER: I would think so. 

KISTLER: That was during the forties and fifties when I 
was at Third [Street] and Carondelet [Street] . I thought 
it was awfully shortsighted, because I could have sold the 
stones to the artists, you know. The artists wanted to buy 
my stones. I wouldn't sell them because I had a limited 


number of stones, and most of them--the artists--were 
working on them. But I needed the supply because the 
stones disappeared. The artists would take them out, and 
the artists would disappear and the stones with them. So 
that I had stones all over the place that were out, and I 
needed a new supply all the time. If I could buy them 
cheaply enough, why, it would have been possible for me to 
sell quite a bunch of them. I could have sold a truckload 
of this stone. I had places to store it and everything. 
That was the way that the materials disappeared. So that, 
eventually, it got to the point where there wasn't very 
much stone available. I sent back to New York and bought a 
whole two or three tons of stone, and I told them that I 
would be glad to have used stone. By that time, why, they 
had a lot of original stones that had never been used at 
all, and they shipped me brand-new stone. I was surprised 
to get a stone that had never been worked at all. 
RATNER: Was the stone all from Germany? 
KISTLER: Yes. The German stone is from the Kelheim 
quarries in Munich, and it's a-- I don't know whether it 
was a good sales job that determines bid, but according to 
lithographers who were using this stone, there was only one 
stone that was any good at all, and that was the stone from 
the Solnhofen and the Kelheim quarries, which is just 
outside Munich. And Munich is where lithography was 


invented. So that it's quite an interesting thing that-- 
But I know that there's been stone found in-- Well, 
limestone is a pretty generally known kind of stone. 
RATNER: And the German stone was limestone, right? 
KISTLER: Yes. Well, limestone is the only stone that was 
good for lithography--they ' re right about that--but 
limestone is known all over the world. They even made 
cement out of it. It's really quite an ordinary stone. 
But this stone from these quarries just a few miles outside 
of Munich-- The finest limestone came from there, and we 
all wanted the German stone. It was strange here when some 
of the lithograph companies closed their stone department. 
Why, a lot of them took and paved their patios with them. 
That was a very hazardous thing to do, because they became 
very slippery when they got wet, and they found out that 
they couldn't walk on them. A lot of them had to take the 
stone up again. But a lot of the stone ended up in that 
way--they built walls of it and made cement of it. A lot 
of the very fine lithograph stone disappeared that we would 
have liked to have had. 

RATNER: How often could a stone be reused? Because I know 
it could be regrained and-- 

KISTLER: I don't know how many times. I never wore out a 
stone. I had over a hundred myself. Of course, I used 
them, I passed them around. But lithograph stones, the 


real fine stone is unique. It runs in grade from almost 
chalky white clear through to a gray or a blue-gray that is 
so hard that you can hardly use it for artwork. And the 
quality of the work varies according to the stones, so that 
the first job that a lithographer has is to select a proper 
stone for the work that the artist is doing. Just the 
light gray stones are the ones that are the best, because 
the drawing shows up on there more like on white paper than 
on any of the others. The real soft ones, the chalky ones, 
don't hold the work well, but they can be used for, oh, 
tint blocks and work that isn't critical. But that 
lithograph there is one that is done-- 
RATNER: The Chariot? 

KISTLER: Yes, that Chariot. It was done on the best stone 
that I had. It was a light gray stone, and it was hard 
enough so that it held all of the work that was put on 
it. And it would stand the etch, so that I didn't etch off 
the light work that was put on by the artist. It would 
hold light work and it would also print the solids, so that 
it really was an exceptional stone. 
RATNER: What's that piece called? 

KISTLER: That's called [The] Tortilla Lesson . The 
tonality there is really remarkable. It's a good example 
of what a lithograph can do in holding real delicate work 
against real dark areas. That's one of Chariot's. 


RATNER: Okay, there's just one last book that you printed 

with Armitage that I wanted to ask you about. It was 

called Fit for a King: The Merle Armitage Book of Food . 


RATNER: It was a little different than the others, and it 

was printed in 1939 with four photographs by Edward Weston, 

designed by Armitage, printed by you. In this particular 

copy it's inscribed, "For Carl Haverlin, the man we hope 

will come to dinner. Salute, Merle." And then, "For Carl 

Haverlin, a darn good egg. Lynt." You must have written 


KISTLER: Where did you run into that? 

RATNER: Oh, it was in this catalog from the Cal[ifornia] 

State [University] Northridge show. 

KISTLER: Oh, it was? I wonder who has that now. 

RATNER: I don't know. Oh, it also had drawings by Elise. 


RATNER: What kind of a book was that? A cookbook? 

KISTLER: Cookbook, yes. Merle was a gourmet and very much 

interested in food. He ate all kinds of food and drank all 

kinds of wine, an authority on all of it, so he put 

together the cookbook and we printed it for him. 

RATNER: So that was the last book you printed--at least it 

seems that way from this catalog--during the thirties, 

before you left for New York, which we had talked about. 


maybe in our first session, that you had gone to New York 

in the forties. You closed up your shop and went to New 

York . 


RATNER: You mentioned that on your New York trip, you 

worked in a printing plant. What type of work did you do? 

KISTLER: Oh, just commercial printing for one of the 

printing firms in New Haven. Worked for them for a 

while. Nothing spectacular at all. 

RATNER: I also read somewhere that during the war you met 

George Miller, the well-known New York lithographer. 

KISTLER: Yes, I did. 

RATNER: Who introduced you? 

KISTLER: Well, I just went up there and said hello to 

him. We talked for a while. 

RATNER: At his plant? 

KISTLER: Yes. His plant was on Fourteenth Street, and he 

had one press up there and he was doing the work. He did 

more for lithography than I did. He got into it before I 

did. I don't know just how he got into it, but I think 

that his son [Burr Miller] is still carrying on in New 


RATNER: Oh, really? I didn't know that. So you knew 

about him in Los Angeles? 

KISTLER: Yes, I knew about him. 


RATNER: How impressed were you with the quality of his 


KISTLER: Well, his work was tops. He was an excellent 

man. He's probably the outstanding lithographer in the 

United States. He started several years before I did. His 

work was very well known. There was an outfit that 

published lithographs for a while and sold them for $5 


RATNER: Right, Associated American Artists. 

KISTLER: Associated American Artists. Of course, there 

was nobody here that took up that work and tried to sell 

them, but Miller had that work available and did quite a 

bit of it, quite a number of prints for them. He had a 

business going. Well, I did one or two prints for 

Associated American Artists, but they wouldn't send their 

prints out here, and I couldn't get enough out of them. If 

there had been a large volume, I might have done something 

with it the way that Miller did, but I just got a job like 

that once in a while. I think that they printed somewhere 

between one hundred and five hundred prints. But I had to 

print them for fifty cents apiece, and I just couldn't get 


RATNER: It's too low. 

KISTLER: Too low. I didn't have volume and I didn't have 

the price either. Associated American Artists were very 


tough to work with. I tried to get the prints down to less 

than half of that. And it cost money in those days to ship 

the stones back and forth. I can't blame them for it. But 

I did one or two stones for them. They accepted them. 

They thought they were good. I think the largest edition 

that I ever printed was five hundred. 

RATNER: For them? 

KISTLER: It was for-- I can't remember. I can't recall 

the artist's name now, but I can look it up if you'd like 

to know. 

RATNER: Yeah, if you think of it, that would be 

interesting. You also, while you were in New York, gave a 

lithography demonstration at the New York World's Fair. 

How did that come about? 

KISTLER: Well, the people asked me to come and demonstrate 

lithography, so I went there and had a group. I gave a 

talk on lithography, told them what I knew about it, and 

showed them how it was done. I pulled my prints and 


RATNER: Well, how did they know about you, though, in New 

York? Your reputation had preceded you? 

KISTLER: Oh, yes. My work was known in New York. By that 

time, I had work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and had 

quite a-- My work was pretty well known. They tried to get 

me to go to work there, but I didn't want to because, well. 


I thought they had enough lithographers there. 
RATNER: While you were in New York was during the war. 
What kinds of limitations were there at that time on 
available lithographic materials? 

KISTLER: Well, they had commenced to curtail the 
manufacture of some materials at that time. Good paper was 
hard to get ahold of until, oh, about ten years ago good 
handmade paper became available again. Well, it was 
available all the time I was printing, but there wasn't 
very much of it, and I had to resort to the use of some 
machine-made papers. I had papers from the Strathmore 
Paper Company, who were the best makers of fine paper at 
that time. I did quite a few of my editions on Strathmore 
paper, but it was machine-made paper. I could get some 
handmade paper, but it was very expensive and a lot of it 
wasn't properly made. It would deteriorate if you weren't 

RATNER: How about inks? 

KISTLER: Well, the industry was changing all the way down 
the line, and some of the materials and some of the things 
disappeared. For instance, it was hard to get grainers at 
one time. It got to be impossible, almost, to get plates 
grained properly. Not the stones. The stones were always 
grained by hand, so that wasn't a problem. But when we got 
into working on metal-- A lot of the hand lithographers in 


later years did work on metal quite a bit, and they 
couldn't get the plates grained properly. 
RATNER: This is during the forties? 

KISTLER: Yes. Another thing that was very bad-- At the 
time when I put my lithograph presses in, why, we used a 
lot of zinc plates. And the zinc plates were very good. 
They were almost like a stone. You would get almost the 
same quality. But aluminum is not as sensitive to ink as 
zinc is. Zinc was very hard to run. It would get all 
clogged up if your inks weren't just right and if you 
didn't have just the right etch on them and it wasn't done 
just absolutely to perfection. So that when aluminum came 
in, why, aluminum wasn't quite as sensitive to the taking 
of the ink, but then the place was run cleaner. You didn't 
have the trouble with them scumming up and things like 
that. So that now, the last time I tried to get some zinc, 
I couldn't get it at all. Nobody had any zinc. It was the 
right thickness, you know. Because the zinc and the 
aluminum plates are very thin, and aluminum and zinc are 
the only metals that have worked out satisfactorily in 
lithography. By the time that I got to working on this 
print here of [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright ' s, why, I had to 
do it on zinc or on aluminum. It was very hard to get what 
we wanted there. Aluminum won't take a nice grain like 
zinc will, but it will run clean. And that's the-- 


RATNER: That was the key. 

KISTLER: That's the incentive. So it disappeared. Zinc 
disappeared in the industry altogether. I was very 
fortunate, as far as ink is concerned. When I first 
started printing, we were working with earth colors. I 
mean, they ground up certain minerals-- 

RATNER: Right, I think you were telling me something about 

KISTLER: --and they precipitated certain things to make 
their colors, you know. We had an awful lot of earth 
colors. Some of them are quite fugitive and very hard to 
handle, very hard to have colors that wouldn't fade or 
wouldn't change color after a period of time. Eventually, 
we got a lot better ink. I worked with a firm here, the 
Gans Ink Company, and Bob [Robert] Gans was very helpful in 
making inks for me and mixing inks and things like that. 
The later printings are done with aniline colors, and they 
are much better, but you have to be careful to get colors 
that will last. Those colors there have been on the wall 
for, I don't know, maybe twenty years, something like that, 
and they stand up. Even the delicate colors are not faded 
in that, and those are all aniline colors. 

But the industry changed as to equipment that was 
available. The printing industry has just changed 
tremendously, clear through the whole industry. When I 


started in the business, why, a lot of press printing--you 
know, 90 percent of the printing--was done with type. When 
I first got acquainted with the business, my father used to 
set me up on a stool and give me a stick to put the set 
type in, and he taught me to set type. I set type when I 
was just a kid, about ten years old. I learned to set 
type, how to justify it and everything, make use of it. 
But then it went from handset type-- It was one of the 
first things that-- And machine automatic presses came into 
being during my time. The first presses that I worked on 
were hand-fed presses. I put the paper into the press and 
let the press take a whack at it, and then I'd pull it out 
and put in another one. They were called "snappers." 
RATNER: Snap the paper right up. 

KISTLER: Yeah, platen presses. Then they commenced to get 
the-- Oh, rotary presses came in. Then they got automatic 
typesetting. Now there's very few people that have type in 
their plant. They don't work with type at all. It is done 
on computers and things like that. I don't know anything 
about it at all. 
RATNER: It's changes so much. 
KISTLER: I didn't get into that. 
RATNER: It will probably keep changing, too. 
KISTLER: Well, I don't know what else they can do except 
to think about it and it will put itself on the paper. 


RATNER: That's right, all by itself. 

KISTLER: Yeah. These machines that they have, that's done 

by precipitation of some sort. I first saw that in New 

York when I went back there and spent three years, and they 

were commencing to work with this precipitation and it 

has-- [tape recorder off] 

KISTLER: There are a lot of printing processes that have 

been worked out on the basis of precipitation and 

sensitizing the paper to take the image, so that that was 

just beginning to be worked on during the later fifties and 

early sixties when I was back in New York. 


JANUARY 24, 1989 

RATNER: I'd like to begin today by discussing your long 
and very productive relationship with the artist Jean 
Chariot, whom we've mentioned during our previous 
discussions. You had told me that Merle Armitage 
introduced him to you and that the first two projects you 
worked on together were the lithograph Woman with Child on 
Back and the book entitled Picture Book . So I'd like to 
move on from those projects in 1933 to a letter you 
received from Chariot in May of 1935 in which he says--I'm 
quoting here-- "You were handsomely represented in the 
Graphic Arts Book Show here in New York. The school has a 
little gallery for shows, and I would like next season to 
give a show of your group of lithographers. I saw a nice 
article in Prints about you." What was Chariot doing in 
New York at that time? 

KISTLER: Well, he was just doing artwork and working 
there, as he usually did. He did some lithography, 
principally, I think, for that outfit that was marketing 
lithographs at that time. I can't recall the name of it 

RATNER: Associated American Artists? 

KISTLER: Yes, Associated American Artists. He made a 
number of lithographs for them. There was one of them that 


I printed. I sent a stone back to Chariot, and he made a 

drawing on it. And I printed the edition, and it turned 

out very well. I can't remember what the subject was 


RATNER: What was the size of the edition for something 

like that? 

KISTLER: I think it was about a hundred. 

RATNER: So when he says in here that the school has a 

little gallery for shows and "I'd like to give a show of 

your group of lithographers, " what school was he talking 


KISTLER: Gee, I can't recall, can't recall. 

RATNER: What about the lithographers he says he wants to 

show? Who might that have been at that time? 

KISTLER: Well, I'll have to look it up in this book here, 

just to be sure that I'm reminded of them. 

RATNER: Okay. 

KISTLER: There was Warren Newcombe and Phil Dike and Phil 

Paradise and Bob [Robert] Majors, Elise [Cavanna] Seeds, 

and-- I'm trying to think of the name of that gal that was-- 

[pause] There was Carl Beetz, Standish Backus, John 

Baldwin, Thomas Barr, Ivan Bartlett-- 

RATNER: A big group. 

KISTLER: Yes. All of these may not have been represented, 

but they were the ones that I was working with at-- 


RATNER: During those early years. 

KISTLER: Yes. I'd have been in that group. Jean 

Negulesco and Clinton Adams. 

RATNER: He was a little later, I think, wasn't he, Clinton 

Adams? In the late forties? 

KISTLER: Yes, he was one of the later ones. I guess that 

he wasn't in that group that was shown there. Beatrice 

Wood is the one that I was trying to think of. I'm trying 

to get the early ones that-- Emil Bisttram, I think, was 

one of those that I was working with then. This is the 

early group. George Biddle, Fanny Blumberg, Edwin 

Botsford. He was a very competent artist and was with an 

advertising company, one of the first ones that I worked 

with. John Breneiser and Stanley Breneiser-- 

RATNER: So these are a lot of the people who were in the 

Stendahl [Gallery] show, too, that you had had in '33. 


RATNER: I recognize some of those names. So it sounds 

like he was organizing some sort of exhibition while he 


KISTLER: Oh, I was into everything. In other words, I was 

not only printing, but I was trying to promote and trying 

to get a wider acceptance of lithography as a fine art. 

That was my purpose. I was very successful in getting a 

lot of artists interested in it, but as far as reaching the 


public, I didn't do so well with that. Another very fine 

artist was Tom [Thomas] Craig. He was really a splendid 

artist. He was also interested in growing flowers. 

Richard Day was another one, one of those early ones that 

might have been in that show. 

RATNER: What about the article in the journal Prints ? I 

think that was one of the very top print periodicals in the 

country at that time, wasn't it? 

KISTLER: The Print journal? I don't remember that. I 

don't recall it. Tom [Thomas] Farmer was another one. Tom 

Farmer was the son of the man who promoted the first 

Olympics. Lorser Feitelson was one of the first ones that-- 

He was a very good artist, but I could only get him to do 

one lithograph in all the time that I've printed. 

RATNER: That was the early thirties? This is like 1935. 

KISTLER: Yes. This is early, even before '35. Alexander 

Patrick Fleming-- 

RATNER: So those are records that you kept at the time in 

that notebook? Like receipts or something? 

KISTLER: No, this was a list that I made of the prints that 

I had that's an appraisal of what was made down on my-- 

RATNER: I see. 

KISTLER: I believe that this collection went to the 

Smithsonian Institution and is on exhibit there now. Gene 

Fleury. Don [Donald] Freeman, who was a New York man. 


RATNER: The children's books. 

KISTLER: I've mentioned him before. Mary Finley Fry could 

have been in that group. I don't suppose that all of these 

people would have been in the show, but-- 

RATNER: No, that would have been a lot. 

KISTLER: Richard Haines, who was a very fine artist 

here. Peter Hurd was another one that I printed for. As a 

matter of fact, that was one of the largest editions I ever 

pulled. I think it was five hundred prints that I pulled 

on that. 

RATNER: You mentioned that last time, but you couldn't 

remember the person's name. I was going to ask you if you 

had remembered . 

KISTLER: Yes, Peter Hurd. He was a very well known 

western artist. 

RATNER: And that was that early? The thirties, the early 


KISTLER: No, that wasn't the early thirties. That was in 

the fifties. 

RATNER: Maybe we could talk about some of the people you 

printed later in a little bit and stick to the group in the 


KISTLER: All right. Yes, I'm trying to pick out those of 

the thirties now. Paul Landacre was one of those. Helen 

Lundeberg was another one. She's another one that I did 


just one lithograph with. Of course, Helen Lundeberg 
finally became Lorser Feitelson's wife. Robert Majors was 
one of those early ones. I believe that Fletcher Martin 
was another one. [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright was one of the 
early ones, and William E. McKee was an early one. As a 
matter of fact, William E. McKee was the first one that I 
did any lithographs with. He was a friend of the family 
and an artist, and he's the one that made that poster for 
the First World War: the farmer and the mechanic and 
somebody else, the three of them marching with the fife and 
the drum and the flag. A takeoff on that early 
association. Ivan Messenger was another one. James 
Patrick was another one in that time. Elmer Plummer, James 
Pinto. Herbert Ryman, who was the designer of practically 
all of Disneyland. 
RATNER: Oh, really? 

KISTLER: A lot of the attractions in Disneyland. He had a 
very lively imagination, and he adapted a lot of the rides 
and things like that to Disneyland, the Disneyland 
experience. Palmer Schoppe was another one who I worked 
with in the early times. As a matter of fact, he worked as 
an assistant to me. He did my stone grinding and helped me 
out with the handling of the paper, wetting it down and 
flattening the prints. There was quite a lot of just 
regular, routine work that had to be done, and he helped me 


with that. 

RATNER: Did you teach him how to do all that? 
KISTLER: Yes, I did. He did a lot of lithographs. I paid 
him in lithographs principally. [laughter] 
RATNER: It was a good deal for both of you. 
KISTLER: Yes. Henrietta Shore was one of my early ones. 
That association of the artist and Northern California 
around-- Oh, what is the name of that place? I'm trying to 
push myself too much now and-- 

RATNER: Did you tell me one time she lived in Carmel? 
KISTLER: Yes. I had an association with Edward Weston and 
that whole group of artists there too at that time, and 
that came through Merle Armitage. Merle was very active, 
and he got me into a lot of the associations with the 
artists. Jack Martin Smith was one of the early ones that 
I worked with. For a while it seemed to me like every 
motion picture that came out. Jack Martin Smith's name 
appeared on it as the art director. I did work with guite 
a number of the art directors at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer . He 
was one of them. Jean Swiggett, I think that I mentioned 
him. He was one of those that was in that era. That just 
about covers the early ones that I can remember. Okay? 
RATNER: Okay. So the article in Prints is not something 
you remember? Apparently, it must have been an article 
about you. 


KISTLER: Yes, it was, but I can't recall. 

RATNER: Okay. 

KISTLER: Do you have the date on it? 

RATNER: No, he didn't say that in the letter. It must 

have been sometime in 1935 though, possibly a little 

earlier. Maybe I can track it down. Then later in '35, in 

July, Chariot writes to you--he's still in New York--that 

he's concerned about settling his account with your father 

on the Picture Book , and he offers to buy each book for $10 

to enable him to settle the account. You had begun work, 

we mentioned, on the Picture Book in 1933, and this is mid- 

'35, so I guess the edition had not sold out at that point. 

KISTLER: No, it had not. 

RATNER: What was the reason for that extended period of 

time to sell out the edition, do you think? 

KISTLER: Well, I don't know. I can't recall what the 

circumstances were and how it turned out. It just is 

blotted out of my recollection. Where do you get all of 

this information? 

RATNER: [laughter] In the correspondence that you gave to 

the [William Andrews] Clark [Memorial] Library. 

KISTLER: It is? 

RATNER: Okay, then there's a jump in that correspondence 

with Chariot. I came across a letter from 1947, when you 

have returned from New York to Los Angeles, and you have 


written to Chariot about a new register rack which brings 
the prints, apparently, into perfect register. There was a 
man named Bill [William] Philbrook who was apparently 
responsible for working on that register rack with you. 
Tell me a little bit about that innovation. 
KISTLER: Well, it is a method that I worked out that was 
unusual. It was a three-point register and it was a frame 
that went around the stone, and then there was a rack that 
you could put on this frame. Then you would lay the paper 
to a three-point register just like you would in a printing 
machine, and it was a kind of complicated thing. You have 
to take it off to pull it through the press, but you had 
perfect register, and I could register very rapidly and 
very accurately for color work when I commenced to work on 
color work. I worked out that frame myself, and this 
Philbrook helped me in really putting it together. I told 
him what I wanted, and he did the work that I laid out for 

RATNER: So how often were you tinkering with all the 
various technical features? 

KISTLER: Oh, all the time. I was always doing something. 
Experimenting with different acid strengths and things like 
that, and doing just blanks on stone, just grinding a stone 
and laying some tones on the stone and seeing how they 
would come out. I did quite a bit of that at that time. 


too, just to find out what I could get by the use of 

certain crayons and certain etches that I used. One thing 

that I found out was that if I put a little-- Oh, let's 

see. What is that acid in it? I'm sorry I'm so fuzzy on 

these things. 

RATNER: You're doing fine. 

KISTLER: [pause] I can't think of some of these things 

now. I can't think of the names of them. 

RATNER: Well, you will later, and then we'll get it. 

KISTLER: Yeah. I'm not doing very good on this, I'm sure. 

RATNER: Yes, you are. Don't worry about it. It's fine. 

Well, so it was some kind of acid? 

KISTLER: Yes. It was recommended, and it was generally 

the practice, to use just nitric acid and gum in order to 

etch the stone. But we had quite a bit of trouble with the 

stone catching up and filling and the work spreading. With 

the use of this acid that I worked out, which included two 

other acids-- Hmm, I can't think of the names of them 

now. Well, anyway, it will come to me. 

RATNER: So it was an improved method with the other acids. 

KISTLER: Yes. [tape recorder off] 

RATNER: In 1947, and I think actually even earlier, you 

and Chariot frequently worked through the mail. In fact, 

you had mentioned that before. 



RATNER: When he was in New York, you would send him zinc 
plates, I guess, through the mail? 
KISTLER: Uh-huh. 

RATNER: How did you work out that system? How did that 

KISTLER: Well, I grained the plates and I sent them back 
to Chariot, and he drew on them. I would then send him 
proofs, and he would-- Sometimes I would send the plates 
back with him, and he would make corrections on the plates 
and, if it was necessary, take out work he didn't want on 
them. Then I would pull the editions and I would send them 
back to him. I sent some stones back to him, too. 
RATNER: I wondered about that. That must have been very 
expensive to send a heavy stone like that through the mail. 
KISTLER: Well, at that time it wasn't as expensive as it 
is now. It would be practically impossible to do it at the 
present time because rates are so high, but it wasn't so 
awfully expensive to do it. And I had a very nice box 
worked out so that you could draw on both sides of the 
stone and clear out to the edge if you wanted to. That way 
the artist could work on both sides of the stone. That 
gave them an opportunity to get two prints for the price of 
one, as far as the shipping was concerned. 
RATNER: How often, if at all, actually, were the stones 
damaged because they had gone through the mail? 


KISTLER: I never had any trouble at all with them. 
I^TNER: Oh, that was lucky. 

KISTLER: Yeah, I never once had difficulty. It worked out 
very well, the method I had. The stone was held rigid in 
the box so it just couldn't move at all. They were very 
heavy plywood boxes that I had, so I shipped them all over 
the United States. That way the different artists who 
wanted to work-- I had several boxes that I used and sent 
the boxes to the artists and did quite a few stones that 

RATNER: So even though, I guess, it was a little more 
time-consuming, because you had to be sending the proofs 
back and forth, it seems to have worked out very well. 
KISTLER: Yes. Lithography is a very responsive medium to 
work in, very well suited to artists working with a great 
deal of freedom, you know. It's just like drawing on a 
piece of paper. It can be corrected and it can be 
modified, and you can open the stones up and redraw on them 
if they haven't got enough work on them. It's a very 
practical method of working. 

RATNER: Okay. Then later in '47, in the letter you've 
written to Charlot--this is in regard to what you were 
saying about promoting the work--you said, "The prints 
arrived, and I am getting them into retail outlets. I'm 
handling sales of some of them myself. I am sending a set 


to E. Weyhe this afternoon. The Chouinard school 

[Chouinard Art Institute] is putting these later prints on 

display again and a note that they can be bought on time as 

we discussed." What kind of an arrangement did you have 

with these outlets? 

KISTLER: Well, it was a consignment proposition. I 

couldn't get them to buy the prints and buy the editions, 

but I would put them up in mats and frames and things like 

that in consignment to them. It was an effort to get 

acceptance of the prints. I talked to different groups, 

clubs, and organizations of one sort and another about the 

prints and tried to get them to handle the work, but I 

never did get, you know, the kind of distribution that I 

hoped for. [laughter] 

RATNER: How about any of the other art schools in Los 

Angeles? How receptive were they to showing some of the 

prints and trying to sell them? 

KISTLER: There were about a half a dozen art schools in 

Los Angeles, and they were all quite cooperative in working 

with me. They attempted to sell the work, both to the 

artists and to the public, too. Do you have the names of 

those art schools? 

RATNER: Well, there was Otis [Art Institute]. 

KISTLER: Otis Art Institute, yes. They had presses, but 

they didn't have anybody that was interested in developing 


lithography. There were two or three others, too, that-- 
RATNER: During the forties there was a place called Jepson 
[Art Institute] , also. 

KISTLER: Jepson art school, yes. I had some of the 
artists from Jepson' s, and they were quite helpful. I will 
have to say that Chouinard was the most active and the most 
helpful. They sent the most students to me. Richard 
Haines there and Ernie De Soto and, oh, quite a number of 
others came over to me and worked out prints with me. But 
it was all on that $30, six-stone deal. There wasn't much 
profit then-- 

RATNER: What does that mean? 

KISTLER: Well, I had a proposition that I would give the 
artist six stones that were grained, ready for drawing, for 
$30, and I would pull two prints for them. If they wanted 
more, they'd have to pay for them. I don't know, about 
seventy-five cents or a dollar apiece. So it wasn't a very 
profitable thing, but it was a promotional deal, and there 
were quite a number of the artists that took it up. But 
they were short on money the same as I was. [laughter] 
There wasn't a great deal of financing at that time. I 
also had the competition of the WPA [Works Progress 
Administration] . The government had instituted a course in 
lithography too, and some of the artists that I might have 
gotten a few dollars from to help me out-- The promotion of 


the work was done by and paid for by the government through 

the WPA. It didn't help me out very much. 

RATNER: No, I guess not. [laughter] Except for I guess 

it had-- At least there were more people in Los Angeles 

working on lithography. 


RATNER: From that standpoint-- It seems like, from what 

you're saying about Chouinard-- Also, here in another 

letter from '47, you talk about Mrs. [Nelbert M. ] 

Chouinard, who started that art school. I think one of the 

prints you're talking about when you say that "The prints 

have arrived, and I'm getting them into retail outlets"-- I 

think one of them was Chariot's Sunday Dress . About that 

you say, "I would like to give one set to Mrs. Chouinard 

and inscribed to her, because she has been very helpful 

promoting sales among the students." 

KISTLER: Yes. Well, that was done, I know. Where it is 

now, I couldn't say. 

RATNER: That was a print, Sunday Dress , that you had done 

through the mail? 

KISTLER: No, no, that Sunday Dress was done in my shop on-- 

I had my shop at various places. I had it at Union [Avenue] 

and Venice Boulevard. I had a little shop in there. I had 

my shop there before I moved over to Third [Street] and 

Carondelet [Street], where I rented that shop. 


RATNER: Which is where you must have been in '47, Third 
and Carondelet. I think that's where you went right after 
the war. 
KISTLER: Yes, that's right. 


JANUARY 24, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, before we flipped the tape we were talking 
about the location of your studios and your relationship 
with the various art schools. How had you met Mrs. 

KISTLER: Oh, I think I went over and said hello to her, as 
I recall, and told her about my-- Probably that's the way 
that that came about. I did a lot of just ordinary contact 
work, you know. Go in and see people about the proposition 
and try to get them interested in doing lithographs or 
handling lithographs or doing something that had to do with 

RATNER: So in addition to all the things we've talked 
about already in '47--I guess that was really a busy year 
for you--in December of that year. Chariot writes to you 
and mentions that you've been-- He must have curated a 
show, I guess, because he says that you've been mentioned 
in his catalog foreword with appropriate honors for a show 
called "Brooklyn Museum Retrospective Print Show, 1913- 
1947." You had apparently loaned some lithographs for that 
show. Brooklyn, of course, was really in the forefront at 
that time for collecting and exhibiting prints. Tell me 
about that exhibition and your involvement with it. 
KISTLER: Well, I just sent prints to it. I don't remember 


just-- I sent everything that I could. All the artists 

that had recognition. I think that they paid me for 

sending them. I'd mount them up and send them in. There 

was quite a bit of recognition of the work in Brooklyn at 

that time. 

RATNER: How involved was Chariot in that exhibition? 

KISTLER: Well, many of the prints that I had made for him 

up to that time were in the exhibition. I know that I sent 


RATNER: It just seems like, from what he says, that he 

either helped curate it or he did curate it by himself, 

since he says in his catalog foreword-- Or maybe he just 

wrote the foreword, I don't know. 

KISTLER: Probably. 

RATNER: Here's an example of when you were talking about 

promoting the work. In 1948 you're talking about how 

actively you're promoting Chariot's work, and you've just 

sent his Sunday Dress and The Tortilla Lesson to a national 

print show in Washington. When you were working through 

the mail like that, how did you work out the aesthetic 

decisions in terms of--? I know you would send him proofs, 

but what about the size and the size of the edition and 

things like that? Who made those decisions? 

KISTLER: Well, the artists usually made them or we made 

them together. I did an awful lot of work just on 


speculation, you know, hoping that we'd sell the prints. 
So if I did make any money from the editions that I 
printed, why, I put the profits right back into the 
promotion of the work of lithography. I was really very 
enthusiastic about it and just devoted all my time and 
effort to the promotion of lithography. I still think that 
it's a wonderful medium. The only thing is that it's too 
facile in a lot of ways. Because it's so easy to make 
these prints and buy lithography, people don't value them 
in the way that they should. They're really very fine 
works of art. 

Usually, it's necessary to have a collaboration in 
order to turn out a lithograph. Because a lithographer has 
to work at it every day-- And I did work at it every day. 
It's just like playing a musical instrument. If you're not 
doing it all the time, why, you get so that you're stale at 
it. So if you don't have a sufficient amount of work, if 
you don't have contacts, if you don't have the work coming 
to you all the time, why, you won't turn out good work. 
The more work that you're turning out, why, the better work 
you're turning out, because you keep your hand at it. It's 
necessary to have skills in the making of the 
lithographs. It's necessary to have actual physical and 
mechanical skills. Those are important. The average 
person can take up with the lithograph, but if they don't 


keep at it all the time, keep alert on the skills that are 

necessary, why, they won't get good work. Just like 

anything else, it is a skill that takes constant 

practice. [pause] Isn't that funny? I can't think of the 

name of those acids. 

RATNER: It will come to you later. Moving on with 

Chariot, then-- Well, from what you were saying, it was 

obvious that's why he wanted to continue to work with 

you. That's the difference between a master printer and 

somebody else, which is why, I guess. Chariot was willing 

to work through the mail, because he wanted to work with 

you. Because you had such a long relationship. In the 

spring of '49-- Apparently he had been in Colorado Springs 

for some time, where I think he was running an art school. 


RATNER: He left there in the spring of '49 and was 

considering opening a small printing school in Los 

Angeles. What happened to that idea? 

KISTLER: He was? 


KISTLER: I don't remember a thing about that. 

RATNER: Okay. Then we move on-- 

KISTLER: He was head of the art department of the 

University of Colorado, and he worked with Lawrence Barrett 

over there. 


RATNER: Barrett was a printer? 

KISTLER: Yes. Yes, he was a printer and very well 
known. Chariot went over there as a teacher, and he was 
more interested in teaching than he was in administration. 
They wanted to put him in charge of the art department, the 
administration of the art department at the University of 
Colorado. He left there because they insisted on it, and 
that's when he went to Hawaii. He went to Hawaii as a 
teacher, and I don't think that he had any duties beyond 
teaching. He was interested in art and in archaeology and 
things like that that had to do with art. He was 
interested in philosophy and languages too, to the extent 
that-- Well, it was amazing to me. French was his native 
tongue. He went to Mexico and learned the Mexican language 
and one of the ancient Indian languages. He mastered it. 
When he went to Hawaii, why, he took up Hawaiian and 
learned to speak all of these languages and wrote a series 
of plays in the Hawaiian language. 
RATNER: Wow, a very versatile man. 

KISTLER: Yes, he was a scholar, and he was very bright and 
very much interested in everything that he associated 
himself with. He was very, very strict in his-- In the 
observance of his-- He was very religious. He had what I 
thought were some very cute things that came up that had to 
do with his religion, his ethics. There was an art 


collector in Los Angeles here that was very active in 
building an art collection and was buying modern artists. 
When Chariot came to town, why, Armitage got him in touch 
with this man. When he met this man-- I won't mention his 
name, but when he met this man, Zohmah [Day Chariot] was-- 
He came to Los Angeles to see Zohmah, really, because-- 
RATNER: Who would be his wife. 

KISTLER: His wife, yes, at his home. She was a young girl 
and didn't have any-- Well, she was just a young girl. 
That's the only way to put it. She was with Chariot when 
he met this man. This man asked Chariot to come to 
dinner. He said, "Miss so-and-so. Miss Zohmah, we'd like 
to have you come, too." But when the actual invitation 
came through to come to this dinner, why, it was just for 
Chariot and not for Zohmah, too. So Jean asked this man, 
he says, "Isn't Miss Day invited, too?" And this man said, 
well, he didn't think that she'd fit into the group and 
that she wouldn't be interested anyway. It would be best 
just for him to come alone. And Chariot said, "Well, in 
that case I won't be able to attend either," which I 
thought was a very fine gesture for him to make, because 
this man was really buying prints and artwork in Los 
Angeles. So he got Zohmah there, too. 

Some of his religious predilections entered into this 
thing, these associations, too, which I thought were very 


amusing and indicative of the integrity of the man. He was 
a very strict Catholic. At that time the Catholics all had 
to eat fish on Friday, and he was religious about it. Some 
of these parties turned out to be on Friday, and he 
wouldn't attend unless he could have fish. He used to come 
to our house on Friday night and stay over until Monday 
morning when I was living and working at Patricia Avenue 
and had my press down in my garage. He'd insist on having 
fish every Friday. We weren't very crazy about it, but we 
were fond of him, and so we had fish. So along in the time 
while we were working together there, why, the Catholic 
church decided that it would no longer be necessary for 
them to have fish on Friday, that they could dispense with 
that particular thing. So the first time he came to our 
house after the necessity to eat fish had been removed from 
the Catholics, why, I said, "Well, come on over to the 
house tonight and we'll have fish." He said, "Lynton, you 
know, I'm a little tired of fish." I thought it was so 
cute. [laughter] But that's indicative of the way that he 
ran his life. He had his ideas about everything. 

But he was very generous with his students. I saw 
some of the most, well, inept students make drawings. You 
know, their first efforts were almost childish. And it 
didn't make any difference how bad the drawing was, why, he 
didn't dwell on how bad it was, but he would always find 


something about them that was-- He would say, "Well, that's 

a very nice idea that you have there, and it needs a little 

here." He didn't intimidate his students. He tried to 

encourage even the most inept students that he had, and 

some of them were pretty bad, of course, and never did get 

very far. He would always find something that was 

interesting or something that he could point out to them, 

and that was the reason that he was so popular with the 

students. I think that he's one of the most popular 

teachers that I ever ran into. 

RATNER: Was his wife related to the artist Richard Day? 

KISTLER: No, no. 

RATNER: No, just a coincidence. Well, it seems like maybe 

after he left Colorado Springs that he thought for a while 

about coming to Los Angeles before he went on to Hawaii, 

because there's a letter from you to him in October 1952, 

and in the postscript you mention that the Los Angeles Art 

Institute is going to be changing directors. You say that 

Lorser Feitelson and Kenneth Ross are in line for the 

job. "Both are friends of mine, " you say. "Would you like 

to have me contact them in regard to your being engaged 

there?" What do you recall about that? 

KISTLER: Nothing came of it. He went to Hawaii. Yes, 

that's really what had transpired. 

RATNER: But he had initially hoped to come back to Los 



KISTLER: No, he became enamored with Hawaii. He fit in 

there with the culture, with the life in Hawaii. It is a 

delightful place to live. And Chariot was at home no 

matter where he was, because he had a love of people and a 

tremendous art interest. He settled in there very easily, 

bought a home there, and did teaching. He taught in the 

university, was very well known and very well liked by all 

the students. I never ran into a student that didn't like 

Chariot . 

RATNER: How well did you know Kenneth Ross, who, I guess, 

did become director of the L.A. Art Institute? 

KISTLER: Well, I never had much contact with him. He had 

his own niche and I had mine, and he wasn't much interested 

in what I was doing. 

RATNER: Oh, okay. 

KISTLER: He was interested in the school itself. They did 

have a lithograph press there, but they never did much with 

it, because there was no one that was sufficiently 

interested that got it off the ground in the Los Angeles 

Art Institute. 

RATNER: I guess if Lorser Feitelson had taken that job, 

things might have been a little bit different. 

KISTLER: Probably would. But I don't think that 

lithography would have gone any further than it did anyway. 


because Lorser was not interested in lithography as a 
medium of expression. He did one lithograph. The only one 
that he ever did in his life, he did with me. It was a 
beautiful lithograph, well done and everything. He had all 
the skills and the materials, but he and his wife, neither 
one could I get to do more than one lithograph. And they 
didn't work with anybody else either. 
RATNER: They just wanted to paint, I guess. 
KISTLER: Yes, they were interested in painting. 
RATNER: Okay, moving on with Chariot then. We move up to 
1961. You've written a letter to Chariot, and I'm quoting 
here. You say, "The news about the Metropolitan Museum is 
very much appreciated. I do think it most generous of you 
to include me in this honor. Your generosity is fully 
appreciated." What was all that about? 

KISTLER: Well, the Metropolitan Museum of Art got a lot of 
his work. And I had quite a bit of recognition from the 
Metropolitan Museum in New York because of Chariot's work 
and because they were impressed with what I was doing 
because of Chariot ' s promotion of the efforts that I was 
making. So that when I went back to New York during the 
war, they made an effort to get me to stay there at that 
time, but I didn't want to locate to New York. 
RATNER: Who were they? The Metropolitan? 
KISTLER: The Metropolitan, yes. 


RATNER: Because they were already aware of your-- 

KISTLER: Yes, they were already aware of my work. They 

didn't want to put up any money or anything like that. 

They didn't offer me any jobs, but they did try to get me 

to do in New York what I was doing in Los Angeles . But 

there were several people working in New York-- [George] 

Miller principally, really — who were doing a very good job 

there, so I didn't try to break into that field. 

RATNER: But still that must have been very flattering for 


KISTLER: Yes, it was. But New York is that way. They try 

to get all of the people that they can there that are doing 

any work at all. They try to get them to work in New York 

if possible. 

RATNER: When you say that the Metropolitan received a 

number of Chariot's works, how did that happen? Through 

donation or purchase? 

KISTLER: Purchase, I believe. Yes, they have a 

considerable collection in New York there of his work, both 

the lithographs and paintings. 

RATNER: Okay, then there's another big jump in the 

correspondence to 1970, where you discuss in the letter 

with Chariot the proofs for a print called Hawaiian 

Drummer . It seems that it was quite involved. What can 

you tell me about that project? 


KISTLER: Well, I don't remember now. I think that there 
was quite a bit of correction and things like that that had 
to be made on the stone . I don ' t know whether he was 
here. He must have been here to work on it. He went back 
to Hawaii, I believe, before it was finished, and we had to 
do some of the corrections and things like that after he 
had gone to Hawaii. So that's what that was about. 
RATNER: I have a copy of the letter here, and it says, "I 
had much trouble with the background due to the tusche you 
used and was relieved to get as much from it as I did. 
There are some faults in register still, and some areas 
will need some correction. This can be done here with a 
correction sheet from you." 

KISTLER: Well, I don't know, that says about all that I 
could say about it. There just were corrections made on 
it. I don't recall what they were. I remember that there 
was a red plate that was added after he got to Hawaii that 
improved the print considerably. 

RATNER: So once he was in Hawaii, his subject matter began 
to reflect what he was seeing there? 

KISTLER: Yes, that is true. His work is pretty well 
contemporary with his residence. 

RATNER: I guess he had also in this print reversed his 
signature, not realizing, I guess, that the offset press 
eliminated the need to reverse the image. Then you go on 


to say, "New materials, inks, and lacquers now make 
possible this way of working, making lithography more 
responsive to the artist's talents and removing many of the 
difficulties." So you were pleased with working in this 
method apparently. 

KISTLER: Well, Hawaiian Drummer was done on stone. 
RATNER: Hmm, well, maybe-- It seems like that's what 
you're talking about in this letter, but maybe it's 
something else. Hmm. I don't know. 

KISTLER: Yeah, I don't think that that can be in regard to 
Hawaiian Drummer , because that was done on stone. 
RATNER: Maybe there's a little piece missing from the 
letter or something. It seems like that's what you're 
talking about, but I guess not. Okay, well, what I thought 
maybe we would do is go ahead and wrap it up here, because 
the next thing I wanted to talk about was Picture Book No. 
II , which you began in 1971, and that was kind of a big 
project. Maybe we'll just pick up with that next time and 
talk about that whole project, and then the last portfolio 
that you did with Chariot as well. 


JANUARY 31, 1989 

RATNER: At our last meeting, we were talking about your 
long relationship with the artist Jean Chariot, and I 
thought we'd continue discussing your work with Chariot 
today. In October of '71, you and Chariot began discussing 
a second Picture Book , which would be called Picture Book 
[ No. ] II , and I'm wondering what inspired the idea to go 
ahead with that project. 

KISTLER: Well, Peter Morse was a moving spirit in that 
book. He was so intrigued by the work that I had done and 
the success of the first Picture Book that he had wanted to 
have another Picture Book printed. So he arranged the 
financing on it, and we went ahead with it. It was handled 
by mail entirely. Chariot was in Hawaii, and I was in Los 

The equipment on which it was printed was a good deal 
different than on the first Picture Book . There was a 
period of some forty years between the two Picture Books , 
so by that time I had my own plant and I had my equipment 
set up on West Washington Street. I was doing nothing but 
lithographs directly drawn on the plate, and I was not 
doing any photographic work, or very little, at that 
time. I had worked out a method of registry that proved to 
be quite effective and very easy to use, but there was some 


photography that was included in it. The artist drew on 
the plate the right way a linear outline for each one of 
the pictures that he was going to draw in color later. 
Then I took that outline and I took a naked negative from 
it and printed it down on each one of the plates. For each 
color that was used in the picture, I made a print, an 
outline, and that way Chariot could draw right to the area 
of color where he wanted to use the various colors. I just 
printed two pictures at a time, and I didn't have eight 
pictures on a plate as I did in the first Picture Book . It 
made it a little more colorful. We could print with less 
colors and get a good deal different effect in the second 
Picture Book than we had for the first. Jack Lord, the 
motion picture actor who was in Hawaii, was the one that 
furnished the finances for that book. 
RATNER: So it wasn't sold through subscriptions? 
KISTLER: It wasn't by subscription, no. But Peter Morse 
is the one responsible for getting the whole thing together 
and getting Lord's finances on it. 
RATNER: And who was Peter Morse? 

KISTLER: Well, Peter Morse is a friend of Jean Chariot's, 
and he is very knowledgeable in art and is especially 
interested in oriental art. At the present time, he is 
working on a catalog of the work of Hokusai . He has been 
in Japan several times to work directly in that country 


with the Hokusai prints, and he is considered the most 

outstanding authority on the Hokusai art at this time, 

oriental art and Hokusai in particular. 

RATNER: So at the time he lived in Hawaii--that ' s how it 


KISTLER: Yes, he lives in Hawaii and is in Hawaii now, 

working on this Hokusai catalog. 

RATNER: So what did Jack Lord get in return for putting up 

the money? 

KISTLER: Oh, I think he got a hundred books or something 

like that for putting up the money. As I recall, I got 

about $26,000 for doing the job. It was a big job. 

RATNER: And who distributed the books? 

KISTLER: Jake Zeitlin. 

RATNER: So he handled that end of it. 


RATNER: And given the success of Picture Book number one, 

how did Picture Book II sell? 

KISTLER: Well, the edition has never been exhausted, but 

it has had very wide distribution. The subject matter in 

Picture Book II was mostly Hawaiian and some South Seas 

experiences of Jean's. 

RATNER: I wanted to ask you a technical question about it, 

too. I was reading one of the letters between you and 

Chariot from October of '72, and it talks about splitting 


colors on the plate. What exactly does that mean? 
KISTLER: Well, it didn't work out very well and we didn't 
follow through on that, but what we planned at first-- We 
had two images on the plate, and we were going to run on 
half the press one color and on the other half run another 
color. But it didn't work out well, so we didn't follow 
through on it, and we just ran one color on a plate. 
RATNER: What would have been the advantage of doing that 
had it worked out? 

KISTLER: Well, we could get a greater variety of colors 
that way. 
RATNER: I see. 

KISTLER: We only used four colors on each one of the 
plates that we had. On each one of the pictures in the 
book, we just used four colors. So it cut down the number 
of colors that we could use. For instance, we could run 
red, yellow, blue, and black on one side, and we'd run a 
chartreuse and an orange and a powder blue and gray on the 
other picture, all at one-- If it worked out. But it 
wasn't practical to do that, so we didn't carry through 
with it. 

RATNER: That must have been costly to do that. Would it--? 
KISTLER: No, it wouldn't have been costly, but it 
complicated the problem too much to match both of those 
colors. Another thing, the mechanism on the press didn't 


lend itself to printing it that way. There's an 
oscillation on the rollers, you know, to distribute the 
ink. It works back and forth, as well as around like 
that. We had to cut down the oscillation of the rollers in 
order to keep the colors from mixing, and that didn't prove 
to be a practical answer either. We didn't go through with 

RATNER: So how disappointed was Chariot that he wasn't 
able to use these additional colors? 

KISTLER: Oh, not too disappointed. It worked out, 
nevertheless, that we needed extra colors. Our basic 
colors were four different colors in each one of the 
pictures, and, if necessary, why, we ran an extra color to 
give a difference in it. It wasn't necessary for us to do 
that very often, but I think that we did that several 

I had a great deal of help from the Cans Ink 
Company. They furnished all of the ink on the job for me, 
and all of our colors were mixed to a match. They all had 
to be permanent colors so they wouldn't fade, and the color 
matches had to be very accurate. Sometimes we'd have to 
get two or three mixes on one color before we got to just 
what we needed. Cans Ink Company furnished all of the ink 
on the job. Bob [Robert] Cans was very helpful in 
following through with that. He went out of his way to 


give us what we wanted. To mix colors it costs, especially 

to mix just the one pound, and we never needed more than 

one pound for a run. To mix a pound of ink it costs a good 

deal more than what he got for it. As a matter of fact, he 

furnished a lot of ink without cost to us. I gave him a 


RATNER: [laughter] Because you'd had such a long 

relationship with him? 

KISTLER: Yes, I did. But he cooperated with me and was a 

very fine friend and very supportive of my work. 

RATNER: That's great. I also read in a letter from about 

this time, while you were working on Picture Book II , that 

you were apparently having some difficulty getting plates. 

You said something about the fact that you had ordered some 

from Chicago in September and they had yet to arrive. 


RATNER: Why was it so difficult to be getting plates at 

that time, in the early seventies? 

KISTLER: Well, I don't recall why it was, but I think that 

that had to do with the graining. We were having a hard 

time getting the proper grain. As a matter of fact, today 

it is almost impossible to get plates grained the way that 

you want them, because for this handwork it takes a little 

coarser grain than we used to use on the plates for 

commercial work. The plates that were furnished at that 


time, most of them didn't have a grain on them at all. I 
went all over the country trying to get a little coarser 
grain on the plates than they were willing to put on 
them. Even people that were in the business of working 
with artists, they didn't seem to understand at that time 
that different grains were necessary on the plates for 
different results. I even went into graining by, oh, the 
people who grained for us, you know, and put a grain on the 
glass, and I did get some satisfactory results that way, 
but I didn't work with it long enough. 

Along about the time they were closing the plant, I 
had to quit working entirely because I got to-- Well, my 
pressman became ill and quit, and I was commencing to get 
difficulty with my breathing and things like that, and so I 
decided to close my plant, too. I was financially able to 
do it at that time, and so I just closed the plant rather 
than try to-- It became apparent to me at that time that 
lithographic work should be carried on in a plant that was 
completely, oh, air-conditioned, and that would have been a 
very expensive thing. At the same time, I would have had 
to train a pressman. It was with a great deal of 
reluctance that I did close my plant for those two 
factors: the fact that it would have cost me literally 
thousands of dollars to properly air-condition my plant and 
the fact that I would have had to, at the same time, train 


another pressman. 

My pressman that left me at that time was Ernest 
Perry. He was very cooperative, although much of the time 
we didn ' t agree on how things should be done . But we 
always came to an understanding before we went ahead. He 
very often did things on the press that I asked him to do 
that were out of the ordinary. For one thing, at that time 
we printed a plate for Marcia Maris--that is Peter Morse's 
wife--with a plate that was drawn to print four colors from 
one plate. That was done by running the four colors 
separately and turning the plate a quarter of the way 
around and returning it to four different positions and 
printing one color over the other. And the design fit 
exactly. To start with, I can't imagine getting another 
artist that could draw so that you could rotate the plate 
that way and get a result out of it. That was the first 
problem. Then there was a problem on the press turning it 
around. My pressman was not in favor of doing it at all, 
but my plant was an experimental plant, and we did a lot of 
things that were unorthodox as far as work was concerned. 
Marcia Maris, who is at the University of Hawaii now as one 
of the instructors, also made a plate with-- There are 
twenty-eight plates [for the print Rainbow Castle ] that she 
made with separate colors. It was all made of little dots, 
and there was a white line between all of these dots. With 


the method of registry that I had worked out, it was 
possible to make the twenty-eight plates, and all twenty- 
eight plates fit exactly. We got perfect register so that 
the twenty-eight plates printed just exactly where they 

RATNER: That must have been an interesting print. 
KISTLER: It was. Well, both of those were interesting, 
and they were indicative of the experimentation that we did 
in the plant and the lengths that I was willing to go to to 
achieve a different result. Marcia Maris, I believe, has a 
set of progressive proofs of each one of the plates 
separately, so that you can see how they are put 
together. That's either in her hands or it's in the hands 
of the Smithsonian Institution, I don't know which now. 
RATNER: So when you were working on Picture Book II , it 
was you and Ernest Perry in your plant at the time who 
printed that. 
KISTLER: That's right. 

RATNER: So it was just the two of you. 

KISTLER: He deserves a lot of credit for the work on the 
Picture Book . It was under my direction that we used this 
method of registry that I found to be so effective. 
RATNER: I also read in a letter from November of '72 that 
the assistant curator of prints from the Los Angeles County 
Museum of Art [Joseph Young] was coming to your plant to 


see the printing of Picture Book II in process. What came 

of that visit? 

KISTLER: Gee, I don't-- [pause] I don't remember it, 

really. I don't remember it. 

RATNER: Was a copy of Picture Book II purchased by the 


KISTLER: I think that it was, yes. 

RATNER: So Picture Book II was ready for delivery in July 

of '73, and you personally took it to Hawaii to Jean 

Chariot. After you returned you wrote to him saying--I'm 

quoting here-- "I had no desire to see Jack Lord on my trip 

to Hawaii. The delivery was"--I guess this must have been 

to Zohmah [Day] Chariot-- "for Jean and Peter, so there was 

no disappointment. I am put out, however, that Jean was 

not invited to this presentation." End of quote. So 

evidently the relationship with Jack Lord had maybe turned 

a little bit sour. What happened there? 

KISTLER: Well, it was at this point I had spent quite a 

bit of money getting over to Hawaii. It was expensive to 

get there, and I thought that I would see on that trip-- I 

really put in a whole day waiting around just to present 

the book to him, and I was disappointed, but there were no 

hard feelings about it. I know that he was busy and that 

it was difficult for him to get away. He did keep me 

waiting all day long, saying that he would be there in an 


hour, or two hours or something like that. Instead of 

enjoying the island I had to wait at Jean's house for Jack 

Lord to show up, and he never did show up. I spent the 

whole day in. But I did meet Lord before, and he was very 

gracious with me. There's no hard feelings about it. It's 

just indicative of the pressure under which Lord was 

working at that time. 

RATNER: What was the presentation that you were talking 

about? You said, "I am put out, however, that Jean was not 

invited to this presentation. " 

KISTLER: I don't remember about what that-- What I told 

you now is what transpired there. 

RATNER: Okay. Then shortly after you returned- - 

KISTLER: I don't care about having that included in this. 

RATNER: Okay, we can talk about how you can take that out 

if you want. 

KISTLER: I don't want to cast any reflection on Lord, 

because I appreciate the fact, as far as I was concerned, 

that he did put up the money for the book. I could also 

appreciate the fact that he was a very busy man and that he 

had a lot of difficulties, a lot of things going at the 

same time that I was there and that had to be taken care 

of, and for that reason he missed seeing me. So I didn't 

necessarily feel slighted or anything like that. 

RATNER: Okay. In September of '73, not too long after you 


had returned from Hawaii, you began, through correspondence, 
to discuss with Chariot the production of a miniature book, 
with Dawson's Book Shop handling the distribution. 

RATNER: Tell me about how you decided which book to 
produce as a miniature and about that whole project. 
KISTLER: Well, that was the first Picture Book . I've got 
one out in there. I'll give you one. I took the Picture 
Book itself and reduced it in four colors to a small book, 
a miniature book, and the reason I did it was that-- Jean 
wrote the original text for the Picture Book . He wanted to 
sell the book in France as well as the United States, and 
so he got the ambassador to Brussels-- Now then, that name 
skips my mind just when I want to bring it up. Paul 
Claudel. He got the ambassador, Paul Claudel, to write his 
version of the pictures in the original Picture Book . 
RATNER: Claudel ' s version. 

KISTLER: Yes. I thought that Jean's text was so 
interesting that it ought to be preserved in some way, and 
so I got out this little picture book that was principally 
to give Jean's version of the pictures. That was done 
quite a few years later. Let's see, that was done in the 
sixties, I think. 

RATNER: ' Seventy- three, I have here, I think it happened. 


RATNER: What was the relationship with Dawson's? Did they 

publish a lot of miniature books, or why were they so 

interested in--? Apparently, they approached you and asked 

if you would be interested in producing a miniature. 

KISTLER: Dawson's? Well, I had a relationship with 

Dawson's over the years. I think I told them about it, and 

they said they would like to handle the book and would like 

to be the publishers. 

RATNER: How well did that sell? 

KISTLER: Well, it's sold very well. I think that I 

printed three hundred copies, and we sold half of them 

anyway and we gave away quite a few. 

RATNER: So that was completed forty years after the first 

Picture Book . That must have made a nice companion piece 

for people who had collected the first one. 


RATNER: What kind of equipment, special equipment, did you 

need to print a miniature like that? 

KISTLER: I printed it on a regular press. It didn't take 

any special equipment. It took a lot of special work 

though, special binding. The A-1 Binding Company did a 

beautiful binding job on it, made a nice little slipcase 

for it. 

RATNER: What did it sell for? 

KISTLER: A hundred dollars. 


RATNER: How about the Picture Book II ? What did that sell 


KISTLER: I don't recall. I don't recall what that sold 

for. I could find out from Peter Morse. 

RATNER: I was just curious about the difference in the 

prices from the first Picture Book , which I guess sold for 

$15. Is that correct? 


RATNER: How the prices have changed in forty years. 

KISTLER: I think that it sold for-- It must have sold for 

$125. And the special edition, which had a sketch bound in 

of one of the plates, sold for $500, I think. 

RATNER: And those were signed? 

KISTLER: Yes, they were signed, too. 

RATNER: Then later in '73, December, you mention in a 

letter to Chariot that your friend Carl Haverlin, who we 

mentioned before, had volunteered to present some material 

on the fortieth anniversary of the Picture Book to Time 

magazine. What, if anything, came of that? 

KISTLER: Nothing. Nothing came of it, I'm sure. There 

may be an article on it, but I don't recall it. Carl 

Haverlin was the manager of Broadcast Music Incorporated 

[BMI], and he had quite an important job in New York and in 

the industry. He is the one that set up an opposition to 

ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors, and 


Publishers] , who were attempting to take over the whole 
radio industry at that time. He got the radio stations 
together and researched a lot of work, everything that he 
could find in the field of the public domain. He gathered 
all of the public domain work, in which there was no 
copyrights or the copyrights had expired, and he made them 
available to the industry so that they didn't have to 
depend upon ASCAP ' s copyrights. That way, why, he kept the 
TV industry free of monopoly by ASCAP. He was quite an 
important man in the industry and a boyhood friend of mine, 
so when I was in New York, why, I printed a catalog of all 
of the things that were in the public domain for-- [tape 
recorder off] The things that were in the public domain 
were published by BMI and made available to the industry, 
and I printed it at the Blanchard Press, where I was 
working at that time when I was in New York. That is one 
job that I did in New York. 

Another one is when the war broke out there. I was 
working at Blanchard, and I got together a booklet of the 
silhouettes of all of the planes that were available. And 
we published that for the public defense people so that 
they could recognize any of the planes that came over--the 
German planes principally. We published the complete book 
of all of the German planes at that time, and that was done 
for the Richfield Oil Company, and they distributed them. 


JANUARY 31, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, before we flipped the tape, you were just 
telling me a little bit about some of your jobs in New 
York. If you had anything else to add, you could. 
Otherwise, we could go ahead and talk about Chariot again. 
KISTLER: Well, we can go ahead and talk about Chariot. I 
have nothing to add to that. 

RATNER: Okay. Following the project with the miniature, 
apparently Chariot went to Caracas for a while--this was in 
the fall of '74--and you sent him some plates there. 
Though it seems that by this time zinc was becoming 
unavailable and you had to send him aluminum. Why was the 
zinc so difficult to come by? 

KISTLER: The metal plates that we were using were those 
that were used on the offset press. Originally, the plates 
were of zinc but they found that aluminum worked a lot 
better than zinc, as far as the commercial industry was 
concerned, and so they had no reason to roll this thin zinc 
anymore. So the zinc plates are impossible to get, even to 
the present day. I spent an awful lot of time trying to 
find out where I could buy the zinc, and I couldn't get it 
at all. The zinc lithographic plates, for handwork, are 
more sensitive to the drawing on the plate than plates 
drawn on aluminum. But the aluminum runs cleaner and is 


easier to keep from filling and easier to keep from 
scumming up. They're sensitive to the grease and are more 
sensitive to gum arabic, and for that reason they were 
preferred in the industry. We had to depend upon the 
materials that were available to the industry in doing our 
lithographs on the offset press. That was a consideration 
there. It doesn't have-- Did I make it clear? 

KISTLER: The zinc plates were better for the artwork, the 
work that was put on the plate, but they were very 
difficult to keep open, keep them from scumming. The 
aluminum plates were not quite as sensitive, but they were 
not as liable to scum or fill in, and they were easier to 
keep open in production. For that reason the industry had 
gone to aluminum plates, and they no longer rolled the zinc 
plates. As far as I know, those thin zinc plates were the 
only reason that they rolled zinc in the first place. 
RATNER: How was it working through the mails to a foreign 
country like that? 

KISTLER: Well, Chariot's daughter had married a man who 
was in the oil business in Caracas, Venezuela. He and his 
wife went down there to Venezuela to visit them. At the 
same time, why, we had a project making a lithograph. The 
Little Seamstress I think it is called. So I sent two 
plates down there, all prepared for printing, and that put 


a-- Well, the whole thing was handled by mail. They were 
down in Caracas for a couple of months visiting his 
daughter, and we handled the whole thing by mail. Of 
course, the mail was very slow between the United States 
and Caracas, and we had some trouble with the immigration 
people about getting these plates back after I had sent 
them down there. Jean had drawn them. I had a hard time 
getting them out of the immigration department, because 
they wanted to put a price on the plates because they came 
from a foreign country. But I went down there and talked 
them out of it. They released them without charging me 
anything in the way of a fee for getting them out of the 
immigration department. 

But we handled the whole thing by mail. I sent the 
plates down there. It took two or three weeks to get the 
plates down there and two or three weeks to get them back 
up here. We were using aluminum plates at that time, but 
even at that, it made it very difficult for me to get out 
of the drawing what Chariot had put on it, because the 
plates had a decided tendency to fill by the time that-- It 
had taken two or three weeks to get them down there, and 
then it took Jean a month or so to do the plates. It was 
in a tropical country, and it was hot and sticky there. 
Then he sent them back, and it took two or three weeks to 
get them from Venezuela to the United States again. And 


they stuck around in the-- Not the immigration but the-- 
RATNER: Customs? 

KISTLER: Customs department for a week before I could get 
them out of there, so they were really a mess by the time I 
got ahold of them. It was one of the most difficult 
printing jobs that I ever did to get anything out of those 
plates because of the way that they were handled, the lapse 
of time and the fact that they were done in a tropical 
country, hot and sticky. I really had a job on my hands. 
RATNER: Yeah, it sounds like it. 

KISTLER: But we did get a very presentable-- The Little 
Seamstress , that was the name of the lithograph. It was 
done in two colors. 

RATNER: Once you actually had it there to print, how much 
extra time did it take because of all those problems? 
Because it started to fill in and things like that. 
KISTLER: Well, I don't know how much extra time I put in 
on the art form or whatever. I know that it was difficult. 
Not time-wise, as far as that was concerned, so much as it 
was the elapsed time between the time I sent the plates 
down there and the fact that they went through so much 
handling and so much time elapsed after the drawing was put 
on the plates and the elapsed time between when they were 
drawn and when they were printed that made the difficulty. 
RATNER: I see, I see. Okay, then we move ahead to 


February of '76, and you apparently made another trip to 

Hawaii, this time for the launching of the Jean Chariot 

catalog of prints [ Jean Chariot's Prints: A Catalogue 

Raisonne ] . Who organized that? 

KISTLER: Peter Morse did. That is a resume of prints of 

Jean Chariot. My work is represented in there, and all of 

the prints that I printed are designated there. I have a 

copy of it if you want to see it. 

RATNER: Yeah, I ' d be interested. 

KISTLER: Isn't there one at the [William Andrews] Clark 

[Memorial] Library? 


KISTLER: I have a copy of it here. 

RATNER: Okay, then I came across a letter from July of '76 

from Chariot to you, where he says, "Regarding yours of 28 

July, saying that using colors for the text is a new idea 

and would cost more came as a surprise. I enclose passages 

from my letter explicitly stating my desire to use color 

from the beginning. If we can't resolve it, it would be 

the first failure in our long collaboration and nothing to 

rejoice about." But I couldn't figure out what project he 

was talking about. 

KISTLER: I couldn't say. Using color for the text? 

RATNER: Yeah. 

KISTLER: I don't know why you should want to use color in 


the text. 

RATNER: That's what it said, but it didn't make any 

reference to which work he was talking about. 

KISTLER: Well, it must have been the second Picture Book , 

but there would be no reason to use multiple colors on the 


RATNER: It was a little later than that. I was just 

curious what had happened there. 

KISTLER: Yeah, well, we resolved that. 

RATNER: Whatever it was. 


RATNER: Okay. Then by February '78 you have sold your 

plant, as you mentioned earlier, and you sent to Chariot 

what you hoped would be the last draft of the prospectus 

for the portfolio of the Melanesian images. I don't know 

how to pronounce that. 

KISTLER: I'm not an expert. I just pronounce it the way 

it's spelled, Kei Viti . 

RATNER: Okay. So anyway, you sent him what you hoped 

would be the final prospectus for that. That turned out to 

be a portfolio that used a rather large format. It 

contained eight original lithographs printed in four to six 

colors. The paper size was 20" X 26", and the image was 

16" X 20". How did this project, which was your final 

collaboration with Chariot, how did that evolve? 


KISTLER: Well, I just wanted to do a portfolio of Jean's 

work in full color. He had been down to the Pacific 

islands. So he wanted to make some lithographs, and we got 

together a portfolio. I think his portfolio is at the 

Clark Library. 

RATNER: Yes, I saw it. 

KISTLER: I had one here, but it's packed, ready for 

shipping, and I-- 

RATNER: I did see the portfolio at the Clark. 

KISTLER: You did see. There were only five lithographs in 

that. But it turned out very nicely. 

RATNER: Was that sold through subscription also? 

KISTLER: No, it was just published on speculation. 

RATNER: And how successful was it? 

KISTLER: Very successful. We sold all of them except one 

or two that I kept, one for each one of my grandchildren. 

I have one that is wrapped here, ready to ship to one of my 

grandchildren now, when he settles down and is ready to 

keep it, when he has a place to keep it. 

RATNER: I guess it sold for $600, I have. The portfolio 

sold for $600 and the individual prints sold for $175. 


RATNER: What was Jake Zeitlin's involvement in the 

project? I came across his name in reference to it. 

KISTLER: Well, he undertook to sell them. 


RATNER: To sell them for you. So was he involved from the 


KISTLER: Yes. He didn't put up any money. I think that I 

financed that printing of it. 

RATNER: Then later, in July of '78 in a letter from you to 

Zohmah Chariot, you say, "Unless we can get someone to buy 

the plates and take a tax deduction on them, our best out 

is to get an appraisal on the plates and donate them to the 

Smithsonian Institution as stated in our brochure." What 

happened there? 

KISTLER: It went to the Smithsonian. One way I made a 

little money. 

RATNER: Good for you. [laughter] So that was your final 

project with Chariot. He died not too long after that, I 


KISTLER: That's right. He was quite ill at the time that 

he finished his-- He was settled in his own mind that he 

was on his way out and-- But he did a very nice job on it. 

RATNER: Whose idea was it to go with the larger format on 


KISTLER: Well, I guess it was mine. 

RATNER: So during your long collaboration with Jean 

Chariot, you produced more than 250 lithographs. Quite a 

sizable number. 



RATNER: How would you explain the longevity of your 
relationship with him? 

KISTLER: Oh, very pleasant. He used to come out to my 
house when I first started, and we'd work on weekends. 
When I started out, I did my work down in the garage, and 
it was a collaboration then. The neighbors-- Well, the 
neighbor across the street from me, who was kind of fussy 
about things, got upset and went to the city and tried to 
put a stop to it. I told them, "I'm not charging anything 
for doing these prints at all. They're a recreation and 
it's not a business. It just happens that I've got a press 
there in my garage and that I'm doing them there. But I'm 
not selling anything. " So it squashed the whole 
business. The artists were coming to my place at that 
time, and sometimes they would fill up the street pretty 
well with cars, which made the parking a little difficult 
right there at the time. But I felt as though I was 
entitled to deal with this. It was a recreation, and I had 
people at my house to enjoy recreation with me. It 
couldn't be interfered with. So he didn't get to first 
base with it. 

RATNER: So how would you explain--? Obviously, you and 
Chariot were very compatible in order to be able to work 
together for so long, especially the fact that you worked 
through the mail for a good part of the time because he was 


living in Hawaii for so many of those years. What was 
it? I mean, how do explain that longevity? For instance, 
you didn't work with somebody else for so many years, but 
with him you must have been simpatico in some way. 
KISTLER: Well, I don't know. He liked my work, and I 
enjoyed doing it. That's the only way that I can explain 
it. I had quite a number of artists that I had a long 
association with, that were with me for a long time. 
RATNER: Was there something about his philosophy towards 
printing or--? 

KISTLER: Well, he liked the way I printed. 
RATNER: Just liked the way you printed. Okay, good 

KISTLER: I followed his desires, I followed his 
instructions, and the work came out onto my hand the way 
that pleased him. So he brought all of his work to me. 
RATNER: If you had to pick one particular project or one 
particular print that was a favorite to do with him, does 
anything stand out in your mind? 

KISTLER: Well, I think that Picture Book number one was 
the highlight of our whole relation. It was early. Many 
things happened-- When Chariot first came to me, we had a 
book underway for Henrietta Shore [ Henrietta Shore ] , who 
was a friend of Jean Chariot's. It was all just about 
ready to put together, and Jean said, "Well, gee, you ought 


to have a picture of Henrietta in there." We said, "Well, 
we haven't got a photograph or anything." And he said, 
"Well, I'll draw a picture." So he made a two-color 
lithograph which we printed, a lithograph that we printed 
at my father [William A. Kistler]'s plant. It wasn't a 
spitting image of Henrietta Shore. It was a little bit 
wild, you know. When Henrietta saw it, why, she plumb 
nearly dropped to the floor, because she didn't know that 
it was going to be in there. It was a surprise. She got 
very upset about it, but finally she realized that it was 
what it was and it was a very nice thing, and she became 
very fond of it. But it didn't make her out to be a movie 
star or anything. [laughter] But that was one of the 
things that came up. 

I told you about the difficulties that Chariot had 
with the print collector. Yeah. I think since his name is 
not mentioned there that that's all right to tell it, don't 

RATNER: Fine. I couldn't figure out who it was. 
KISTLER: Let's see, what was his name? Well, he was a big 
collector in Los Angeles here. But I thought it was 
indicative of Chariot's character the way that he acted, 
the fact that he had refused to go to this dinner. There 
had been a tentative invitation, and it wasn't carried 
through. So he told the man that he wouldn't come unless 


Zohmah was invited. 

RATNER: So is there anything else about Chariot that you 

would like to add before we finish this little session 

talking about him? 

KISTLER: Let's see. 

RATNER: Of course, if you think of something later, that's 

fine, too. But just if you think of anything now. 

KISTLER: Yeah. I can't think of anything else right now. 

I told you about coming in about the fish on Fridays, which 

I thought was kind of cute. 

RATNER: Okay, well, we'll finish up here then and pick up 

with your return from New York another time. 


FEBRUARY 21, 1989 

RATNER: We spent our previous two meetings talking about 
your relationship with Jean Chariot. I thought that we 
would back up today and talk about your return to Los 
Angeles from New York following the war. We've discussed 
that briefly during some earlier meetings, but I thought we 
could talk about it a little bit more in depth today. I 
know you came back to Los Angeles in 1945 when you set up a 
shop in your house--I guess you purchased a house at Third 
[Street] and Carondelet Street--at which time you decided 
that you would work exclusively as a fine art lithographer. 
How did you come to that decision? 

KISTLER: Well, I had severed-- We had severed our relation 
in the East, that is, and had decided to come back to Los 
Angeles, and the war was ending at that time. I hadn't 
been able to carry on the kind of activity that I had 
planned in working with artists through the wartime. I 
hadn't found any application there for the work. I had 
this house on Patricia Avenue. It had increased in value 
considerably, and I practically had it paid for, so it gave 
me capital to go ahead and put in a plant. I made up my 
mind that I was going to go ahead with the work in working 
with artists. So I sold the house, and I had sufficient 
capital to buy a house at Third and Carondelet, and we set 


up our lithograph business there. We lived upstairs. It 
was a two-apartment flat, and the upper part of the house 
we used for living, and downstairs, why, I put in a gallery 
and a workshop, moved my stones and things into the lower 
part of the house and started soliciting artists and the 
people at Chouinard art school [Chouinard Art Institute] 
and several other art schools that were operating at that 
time. They sent their students over to me. There were 
three or four other art schools--I can't remember the names 
of them--but Chouinard was the principal art school here. 

The University of California, through Stanton 
Macdonald-Wright, who I had done work for before I went 
East-- He was in charge of the art department at UCLA. He 
arranged to have the teachers at UCLA come down to my shop 
and learn about lithography from me. Of course, they did 
lithographs at my shop, and that's the way that I got 
along. Amongst them was Clinton Adams, who was one of the 
instructors at UCLA, and June Wayne, who was not connected 
with the university, but she walked into my plant one 
day. She was sent there by a friend of hers--I can't 
recall his name right now [Jules Langsner] --but she wanted 
to learn about lithography. I had an arrangement that I 
had made as an introductory offer, which was of no profit 
to me at all financially, but I thought it would get the 
artists interested in the work. June came in and looked 


around the place, and I told her about this proposition 
that I had to print six prints. I prepare the stone and 
give her instruction on the drawing of the lithographs on 
six of the stones and would attempt to sell any of the work 
that she produced. I had complete arrangement of the sale 
of the prints and also the printing of the prints worked 
out. For $30, why, I agreed to do these six stones. She 
said that she didn't think that was any sort of a deal that 
she would be interested in. It didn't seem like I had 
earned my $30, and she wouldn't have any part of it. And 
after looking around for about thirty days, at the end of 
thirty days she came back to me and said that she would 
like to have individual instruction in lithography from me, 
and she paid me quite well. But she was the kind of a 
person that wanted complete attention when you were working 
with her. She didn't want anybody else around at all. She 
even wanted me to clear out the rest of the plant and give 
instruction to her and have my time available completely, 
which if it was convenient for me to do and make 
arrangements, why, I did. I worked with her that way 
directly. We made quite a number of lithographs. 

But even at that, there was not sufficient income from 
the whole setup that I had. I couldn't generate enough 
activity to continue in the work as an exclusive thing, and 
the property that I had bought had increased in price in 


the four or five years that I was at Third and 
Carondelet. To the point where I found that I could go 
into commercial work and do so much better that I decided 
that I would continue with the stone work as far as I 
could, and in the new plant that I set up I bought two 
offset presses and went into commercial work. Of course, I 
was experienced in commercial printing at that time. I was 
able to go into business, and I had a name in the Los 
Angeles area as being a successful printer, and so I've 
built up a very nice business. I could never become 
completely out of the artistic business. The artists kept 
coming to me to do lithographs, so I commenced to work out 
a deal where I could handle the work on an offset press 
rather than on the stone work. 

RATNER: Which is what you were doing exclusively at Third 
and Carondelet, correct, just stone work? 

KISTLER: Yes, I was doing it exclusively. So then I sold 
the property at Third and Carondelet and took the money and 
put it into a plant on Temple Street. I never did get over 
the idea of working with the artists, and I converted many 
of them to lithographs that were printed on offset press. 
As far as I know, I was one of-- Well, the first one, I 
guess, that went into the business of printing fine art on 
offset presses. For a while I did have my stone presses 
there too and I did some work on the stone press. Those 


artists that were able to work with me, why, I converted 
them to the offset work, and they did very well with it. 

As long as zinc plates were available, which were the 
plates that were first used in the offset work, why, it 
went very well. Then they commenced to bring the aluminum 
plates into use and banned the zinc plates. They quit 
making--rolling--zinc, so it was not available to offset 
work, and I had to work it out in aluminum. The difference 
there is that the zinc plates have many of the 
characteristics of stone. The zinc is sensitive to the 
same materials that you use on stone. But they are also 
very difficult to print because they have a tendency to 
fill. You have to have a very skillful pressman, and you 
have to be very careful in working with them or your work 
will fill up and you'll lose your design. I was able to 
overcome those characteristics. By the time it was almost 
impossible to get zinc plates, why, the aluminum plates had 
taken over, and I had to convert to aluminum plates rather 
than zinc plates. 

RATNER: About what year was that that you couldn't get 
zinc anymore? 

KISTLER: Oh, I don't have any dates in mind. 
RATNER: Like by the sixties or something? Or later than 
KISTLER: Yes, in the sixties. I found that some of my 


artists could convert very well, and it gave me more of an 
opportunity to work in color than I had before. Jean 
Chariot and Stanton Macdonald-Wright and one or two others, 
Millard Sheets, all had a color concept and could work in 
both the zinc and the aluminum, and I worked out 
considerable work. It was drawn directly on the plates. 

I printed Picture Book No. II . It was financed by 
Jack Lord; it was promoted by Peter Morse. Jean Chariot 
drew a second Picture Book , thirty- two lithographs, and 
made quite a different proposition for me to work with, 
because I could only print two pictures at a time on the 
press, whereas in the first Picture Book we did eight 
pictures on a sheet at a time. My presses were smaller. 
They were more up-to-date. 

I did quite a bit of color work and experimental work 
in converting the original lithographs drawn on the plate 
to the offset press. I worked out methods of registration 
and working with the Cans Ink Company, and we developed 
inks that were suitable for the artwork. They mixed the 
colors for me just the way that the artists wanted them, 
and I worked out registration and things like that. I 
worked out a method of registry where the artist would make 
a line drawing which served as the color registration 
guide. Then we photographed that and photographed it onto 
the plate. Then the artist drew the plate so that the 


colors all registered exactly. It saved us quite a bit of 
time in registry work. Then this color guide that we put 
on the plate didn't print. We worked it out so that we 
could get rid of the original color guide on the plate and 
we had just the drawing left, with the register marks to 
keep the design in register. I worked with Marcia Maris 
making one color lithograph [ The Castle ] that we ran 
twenty-eight colors on. 

RATNER: Right, I think you told me about that last time. 
KISTLER: Yes. And I did another one with Stanton 
Macdonald-Wright, and there were eleven colors on that. 
That's that one we have on the wall there. 
RATNER: What's the title of that? 

KISTLER: That's Gershwin's Music . I did a couple of 
prints with Millard Sheets the same way. But I commenced 
to run into trouble, because my pressman [Ernest Perry] had 
developed an allergy from the acids and things that we 
worked with, and he quit. The materials that were 
available for making lithographs, even on aluminum plates, 
were disappearing from the market, because they were no 
longer required in the commercial printing business. I had 
to depend upon that source for the materials that were 
available. And it was quite evident to me at that time 
that to continue with the work I would have to air- 
condition my plant, which would cost me several thousands 


of dollars, more money than I could afford to spend on 

it. So I decided at that time not to go ahead with the 

work any further and let it lie where it was. I also did-- 

Well, I told you about the thirty- two-page design book. 

Picture Book II . That's about it. 

RATNER: No, you skipped a lot. You don't know what I have 

in store for you. [laughter] I want to back up to the 

forties for a few minutes if we could. I just want to ask 

you, when you first returned to Los Angeles, how available 

were materials, given the war situation? 

KISTLER: Real good paper had disappeared, but the industry 

was converting entirely to offset lithography rather than 

stone lithography, and there is a complete difference 

there. The presses were improved and materials were 

changing very rapidly. Let's see, where were we, anyway? 

What was your question? 

RATNER: I was asking how available the materials were 

right after the war, so that's right on line. 

KISTLER: Yes. Oh, a flood of new materials came into 

being, and the ink situation changed from earth colors and 

things like that to aniline dyes entirely. 

RATNER: That was around that time. 

KISTLER: That made some of the colors more fugitive and 

others it made more permanent. New mediums for mixing the 

colors were developed, and the Gans Ink Company, who I 


worked with, had put in a department for mixing the inks 
for the printers, so I could get the kind of ink that I 
wanted and get the colors that matched very accurately by 
then. It saved us quite a bit of work and gave us 
permanent colors in the things that I have printed, which 
have stood up over the years and have not faded. Previous 
to the working out of formulas that Bob [Robert] Cans 
worked out for me-- My colors were not only brilliant and I 
could get very clear and very precise colors, but they were 
permanent too, which was an essential thing as I saw 

But the combination of my pressman quitting and the 
fact that I would have to spend more money than I had on 
the plant-- There didn't seem to be enough available 
business at that time to continue with. It wasn't possible 
for me to spend $100,000 in air-conditioning the plant, and 
that would have been on an experimental basis, too. So 
that about covers the situation as it was in the time that 
I could. 

RATNER: Well, I also read in some of the earlier 
correspondence at the [William Andrews] Clark [Memorial] 
Library that you did some work with some of the [Walt] 
Disney [Studio] artists in 1947. How did that all come 
KISTLER: Let's see. That came about through a combination 


of my work with some of the artists in the studios. I made 
an acquaintance with quite a number of artists in the 
studios and had done work for them on stone. Then my 
aquaintance with Herbert Ryman, which I told you about. 
RATNER: Right. 

KISTLER: He introduced me to artists at Disney, and word 
got around, one way and another, to the studios that I was 
doing lithograph both in offset and on stone. That helped 
out my contacts. I worked with practically-- Many of the 
well-known artists at the studio. Warren Newcombe was one 
man that I worked with. He was the man that worked out the 
proposition that they would build a set portraying the 
capitol steps and then they would take a photograph of the 
capitol. He worked it out so that they would photograph 
the lower part first, where the action took place, and the 
background would be from a photograph of the capitol 
itself. It was all fit together, but it was photographed 
separately, the top and the bottom. It was a very 
complicated deal that I can't describe because he wouldn't 
even let the principals at Metro-Goldwyn[ -Mayer] into his 
studio there. He was a man that worked it out, and I guess 
it is still used today. He was one of the men that I had 
worked with. 

RATNER: That's right. I remember we talked about him a 


KISTLER: Herbert Ryman worked at the studios. And he 
talked about my work, and it got around town that I was a 
competent lithographer. The artists came, floods of them, 
on Sundays. Weekends were the only time the artists had to 
work when I first started in and was working in my home at 
Patricia Avenue. They'd practically fill up the streets 
there with their cars, and the neighbors got upset about 
it. One man undertook to go to the city, and I had quite a 
stew about it, because they wanted to stop my doing work. 
But I carried it on as a hobby. I wasn't charging them any 
money for it, and it wasn't a commercial business at that 
time, so they didn't do anything about it. They just said, 
well, I had a right to such parking as was available, and I 
wasn't doing anything that was against the law. 
RATNER: How much competition was there in Los Angeles, 
during the late forties, amongst fine art lithographers? 
KISTLER: The only competition that I had was workmen who 
in their spare time would work with the artists on it. 
RATNER: So you were really it in terms of a full-time fine 
art lithographer. 

KISTLER: Yes, I was the only one that made my time 
available on any reasonable basis. Most of the 
lithographers, by the time that they put in a full week's 
work, which at the start was six days a week, why, they 
didn't want to do any more of it. They didn't want to work 


on it any further with the stone. But there was one man by 

the name of Graff who worked for me in the Kistler plant, 

my father's plant. He used to pull prints. Another man, 

Paul Rohrer, he was a very fine printer and a very fine 

lithographer. But they weren't very anxious to give me any 

information on the printing of stone. They wanted to keep 

it as their own prerogative. 

RATNER: Right. But you fooled them. 

KISTLER: So I wasn't able to get much information from them. 

RATNER: But that was early on, right, that you're talking 

about, when you proceeded to learn yourself. 


RATNER: When you were mentioning earlier about the-- 

KISTLER: This is as rambling as my life has been. We've 

been going back and forth here. I really had no 

organization, I think. I didn't keep any real records. I 

never have, so it's-- 

RATNER: Well, in all the correspondence that you have, I 

was able to, you know, come up with an outline that told me 

what you were doing and when. So that's what I'm trying to 

worm out of you. [laughter] 

KISTLER: Trying to pry out of me. [laughter] 

RATNER: When you were mentioning earlier about your 

contact with the people at UCLA through Stanton Macdonald- 

Wright-- That's how you met Clinton Adams and other people 


as well. How much did that contact with UCLA increase your 
work load? 

KISTLER: Well, it was a substantial part of it. 
RATNER: It wasn't like a onetime thing with those artists? 
They became genuinely interested in lithography? I guess 
that's what I'm trying to find out. 

KISTLER: Artists draw pictures when they feel like it, 
when they feel a picture coming on. That is, unless they 
have an assignment. I didn't have any assignments and they 
didn't have any assignments, so it was just whenever they 
got a feeling that they wanted to make a lithograph or that 
they wanted to make a drawing that they came to me. 
Sometimes it would be a year or more. There were-- When I 
was working with June Wayne, I printed an awful lot of work 
for her. I did work on both stone and offset work with 
her. There were lapses the whole year when I wouldn't see 
her. She was just doing something else. The same way with 
the other artists. I had no permanent customers. I had 
nobody that I could get interested in or would work on 
lithography and make it a medium. If I had had more time 
and more money, I could have gone ahead with it and done 
more promotional work. But I did lay the groundwork for 
its acceptance amongst the artists, and there were two or 
three other people who went into business after I started 
the work in Los Angeles. 


FEBRUARY 21, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, before we flipped the tape we were talking 
about your relationship with various artists and the fact 
that you had laid the groundwork for an interest in 
lithography in Los Angeles. I wanted to ask you, I know 
that you had your own gallery in your plant because you 
felt you needed a place to show the work, because there, 
for a time, wasn't a lot of interest in prints. But I know 
by the late forties that there were more fine art galleries 
in the Los Angeles area. I believe that Vincent Price had 
opened his Little Gallery in Beverly Hills, as well as 
helping to found the Modern Institute of Art, which was in 
Beverly Hills. Also by this time, Frank Perls, Felix 
Landau, William Copley, and Paul Kantor had also opened 
their own galleries. Also Associated American Artists 
opened up a short-lived, but apparently very lavish, 
Beverly Hills branch in '47. There was also something 
called the American Contemporary Gallery run by Barbara 
Byrnes. With all this new activity, I wondered how much 
interest there was in prints. 

KISTLER: Well, there wasn't enough to keep a printer 
going. None of those people have cooperated with me in 
developing prints. You mean that those people were active 
in the sale of prints at that time? 


RATNER: No, no, no. I don't know. I know that they had 
opened up galleries. What I didn't know was whether they 
were showing paintings exclusively or whether there was 
some interest in prints by this point. I didn't know. I 
just knew that the galleries had opened by then. 
KISTLER: Yes. Well, none of them took up the cudgel and 
went after print sales and specialized in prints. It was a 
sideline, entirely, with them. I don't know. I didn't get 
any real help from any of the galleries. There weren't any 
of them that made prints a specialty, you know. None of 
them that had galleries that specialized in prints and saw 
the value of marketing them. 

RATNER: Why do you feel the Associated American Artists 
decided to open up a place out here for a little while? 
KISTLER: I don't know, because they didn't make much of a 
splash. I didn't know that they had opened up a gallery 
here. That's how much it amounted to. I think I was 
pretty alert for anyone who could have helped with the 
promotion of prints. But there wasn't a one of them that I 
knew of that-- They didn't use my facilities, they didn't 
bring any customers to me, and, frankly, I wasn't even 
conscious and am not at the present time that Associated 
American Artists opened. I don't remember their having 
opened a gallery here, so they certainly didn't contribute 
much to this area of prints. There were some of them that 


were very enthusiastic about my work, and if I had had the 
work of major artists to offer them, it would have made it 
possible to work out the work more. There was one gallery 
that was owned-- I don't-- Name over those galleries again, 
RATNER: Was it the Copley Gallery that you're thinking of 
that you worked with? 

RATNER: That was considered by many to be the most avant- 
garde of the galleries at the time. 

KISTLER: Yes, I did work with Copley. That was one 
gallery that did work with me quite a bit. I printed a 
couple of books for them and also did an etching for the 
man who was the outstanding-- Oh, what do you call it? 

RATNER: Well, you did two projects with the Copley 
Gallery: one in '48 with Man Ray and a second one in '49 
with Max Ernst. 

KISTLER: Yes, and Max Ernst is the one I was trying to 
think of. 

RATNER: Let me ask you about the one with Man Ray, since 
that occurred first, in '48. In 1948 the Copley Gallery 
published the first edition of Man Ray's Alphabet For 
Adults , and that was designed by the artist and printed by 
you. How did you become involved with that project? 
KISTLER: Well, he came to me and worked with me, and I 


printed a book for them that was done on an offset press. 

And that's about it. Then I handled their commercial 

printing, too. If I had had two or three more people of 

that caliber that had money to spend or were willing to 

work with me, it would have gotten me a good deal further 

with it. 

RATNER: Then you also collaborated on one lithograph with 

Man Ray called Le Roman Noir . How did that develop? 

KISTLER: Well, he just wanted to make a lithograph. He 

came in, and I gave him a stone, and he-- 

RATNER: Went to work. 

KISTLER: He went to work on it. I handled it like I did 

the others. He had some innovations in that printing. 

I've forgotten just what they were now, but-- 

RATNER: Well, I read something about the fact that he- -Man 

Ray--suggested using four colors, blue, red, black and 

brown. And then they were blended together, which was 

something that neither of you had done before. 

KISTLER: Yes, I knew how to do it. I knew what he wanted 


RATNER: Apparently, that was some kind of innovation, I 



RATNER: So how would you describe him, Man Ray? How was 

he to work with? 


KISTLER: Well, he was very imaginative and placed quite a 
bit of requirements on my imagination and everything. He 
was stimulating to work with because he did have ideas 
about lithography that we could have carried out. I would 
like to have done more work with him. 

RATNER: But he wasn't interested in doing more litho- 
graphs? Is that what happened? 

KISTLER: Well, he was interested in painting and things of 
that sort that were paying more money. That was the breach 
that we had was the difference in price between a painting 
and a lithograph. Lithographs were selling-- For even fine 
artists, they were seldom priced at more than a few 
dollars; and paintings, they were really getting high 
prices for them. 

RATNER: Then, as we mentioned, another artist you worked 
with that was connected with the Copley Gallery was Max 
Ernst. In 1949, I guess carrying over to '50, the Copley 
Gallery held a Max Ernst retrospective. The artist 
designed the catalog and you printed it [ Max Ernst: Thirty 
Years of His Work ] , apparently, in an edition of 513 
numbered copies, of which the first 22 contained an 
original etching printed by Joe [Joseph] Funk at Jules 
Heller's USC [University of Southern California] workshop. 
RATNER: How did you become involved with that project? 


KISTLER: Well, Copley was working with me at that time, 
and I handled some commercial printing for them. I worked 
with whoever was available to pull the prints. That was 
just collaboration that I had. When something was outside 
of the scope of my facilities, why, I went someplace else 
to get them. I did occasionally use a letterpress printer 
and another lithographer and a compositor in that case. 
RATNER: How would you describe Max Ernst? 
KISTLER: I didn't know him very well. I just got his" 
plates. I'm not sure that I ever met him. 
RATNER: Well, in an interview I read that you later did 
with Clinton Adams, you recount a story to Clinton Adams 
about Ernst and his desire to print with you if you would 
take part of the edition as payment. You said that you 
refused because you had a policy to take only cash for your 
work. But then you later said you regretted it as a major 
error in judgment on your part. 

KISTLER: Well, I found out later the importance of the 
artists. It was one mistake that I made. If I had been 
alert to the value of Ernst's work, as it finally worked 
out, why, I wouldn't have had to have worried the rest of 
my life. [laughter] I'm sorry now that I didn't go ahead 
with it on that basis. But I did have to eat, too. That's 
another thing. 
RATNER: That's right. You couldn't eat prints. So up 


until that time, you weren't real familiar with his work? 

He was just somebody that the artist was bringing you to 

work with. 

KISTLER: Yes, yes, he was just another artist that was 


RATNER: What sort of a working relationship did you have, 

if any, with any of the other Copley Gallery artists? I 

know that they showed the other surrealists: [Roberto] 

Matta, [Rene] Magritte, [Joseph] Cornell, and [Yves] 


KISTLER: Well, most of those artists were out of the 

country even. They specialized in-- Oh, a man from Chile 

and another one from Peru and French artists that weren't 

even in this country, Man Ray and Max Ernst were two of 

the artists that they brought to this country in person. 

The rest of them weren't able to come here. They didn't 

have the finances and they didn't have the standing. 

Copley was specializing in abstract art, and it was having 

quite a time getting by at that time. It wasn't generally 

accepted. It wasn't even as accepted as it is today, and 

so not so many of them got to this country. 

RATNER: So those were the two main artists that you worked 

with from that gallery, other than commercial work that you 

just did for the gallery. 

KISTLER: Yes, that's right. 


RATNER: I mentioned a minute ago that Joe Funk had printed 

that etching at USC for the Ernst project. What was your 

opinion of that lithography workshop at USC? It was begun 

in the late forties. 

KISTLER: Well, I think that it was valuable, but I wasn't 

very well acquainted with what they were doing. They 

weren't poking around my shop, and I didn't poke around 

theirs. But I suppose that I could have. If there had 

been more cooperation, lithography would have taken hold a 

good deal better than it did. 

RATNER: But you just both kept to yourselves. 

KISTLER: Yes, we worked independently, and they didn't 

seem to be interested in what I was doing. 

RATNER: So even though you had been in town for quite a 

while and had been operating even before they opened up, 

they didn't come to you ahead of time seeking any advice or 

anything like that. 

KISTLER: No, no. 

RATNER: Okay, also in '48, as you mentioned earlier, that 

was when June Wayne first came to your plant, and you 

worked with her over the next nine or ten years. Because 

you worked with her for such a long time-- I know you've 

worked with other artists for a long time as well. But 

what would you say makes a good collaboration between an 

artist and a printer? 


KISTLER: Well, it's a mutual viewpoint. It is an 
appreciation of the work, the skill of each of them, and 
the concept that they have. Their respect for each other's 
viewpoints. It's kind of like a marriage, you know. You 
get along because you get along, or you just don't get 
along at all. Very often there is an awful lot of patience 
on the part of one side or the other. Eugene Herman was an 
awfully impatient man to work with, very critical of 
everything that was done. He criticized the things that I 
did and the way that they were printed, and I was just 
patient with him to get what he wanted. On the part of the 
printer, it's a matter of being able to project the 
concepts of the artist by cooperation and patience with 
sometimes rather pointed criticism. Other times, you find 
artists that are very easy to work with, that they are not 
critical and that they are cooperative. It's a question of 
the temperaments of the people that are working together. 
There are all kinds of combinations between patience and 
impatience and charitableness towards each other's work and 
their-- Well, it's just living together, really. You've 
got to forgive a lot of things that occur, a lot of things 
that are said. The printers make mistakes, and the artist 
has to be patient with it. And the artist sometimes puts 
demands upon the printer that are almost impossible. 
For instance, in working with Stanton Macdonald- 


Wright-- He was a very fine artist, very competent and very 
capable. He didn't know exactly how colors would work out, 
having drawn them on a plate, how they would print. With 
my experience, I could tell him, "Stanton, this thing here, 
you've got to put more crayon on that if you want that to 
come out the way that you want it to." And he'd say, "I 
want to see how it looks from here just the way I've drawn 
it there." I would have to be patient enough to go ahead 
and print it, put it on the press and print it and go 
through all the motions of making a trial print. And he'd 
say, "Well, gee, that isn't what I wanted at all." He'd 
come back to the original concept that I had. Sometimes 
that went on two or three times on a color. Or if I was 
doing a color, I'd tell him that there had to be more 
drawing on the plate or something was going to come out too 
dark, or something of that kind, and he would demand to see 
it. He lived way up on the beach, up north of Santa Monica 
there, and I would have to take proofs to him, clear down 
to his place, which was a matter of twenty or thirty miles. 
I'd have to take them down to him for his approval. He had a 
funny thing about being afraid of traffic and everything, so 
I had to do all the legwork on that. I couldn't be in my 
plant when I was in my car and going to consult with him. It 
made it an expensive thing to work out. But he helped me out 
so much in bringing artists to me and things like that that I 


felt that it was worthwhile to work with him. On this 
expense, my time ran considerably more than he'd pay for, 
than he was willing to pay for, and I had to reduce the bill 
considerably from what I thought was a fair and reasonable 
charge. It was indicative of what I was willing to do to 
please the artist. I think that a printer has to be that way 
if he is going to work with an artist. Either that or you 
won't get anyplace at all. 

RATNER: I wondered how you felt about that in terms of 
subject matter, because, speaking of June Wayne again, to 
prepare for this interview, I was reading an interview done 
with her. In it she mentions a print that she was working 
on with you, the subject matter of which you apparently 
didn't approve of. Initially you refused to print it. 

RATNER: But you ultimately did agree to print it, and I 
wondered what you remembered about that particular situation. 
KISTLER: Well, I just didn't think it was worth printing. 
That's it. 

RATNER: Aesthetically or because of the subject matter? 
KISTLER: Oh, the subject matter and aesthetically. It 
didn't seem to come up to her standard or mine either. 
RATNER: What was your feeling regarding the artist's 
choice of subject? Was that the artist's decision, or was 
there a point at which you felt--? 


KISTLER: Well, there's a fine line between promiscuity and 

art, and sometimes that was the basis at which I didn't 

want to print anything that was pornographic. I wouldn't 

print it, as a matter of fact. 

RATNER: So what--? It had more to do with that than, say, 

for instance, a political subject or something like that? 

KISTLER: Yes. That was the only thing that I drew the 

line on. I wouldn't handle pornography of any kind or a 

print that I felt bordered on pornography. There's an 

awful lot of things that I wouldn't print today. 

RATNER: But how often did that come up when you were 


KISTLER: Not very often. 

RATNER: Not very often. 


RATNER: Okay, I discovered that during the late forties 

and early fifties, most of Southern California's prominent 

artists came to work with you, including William Brice, 

Hans Burkhardt, Phil Dike, Lorser Feitelson, Rico Lebrun, 

Helen Lundeberg, Dan Lutz, Phil Paradise, Millard Sheets, 

Wayne Thiebaud, and June Wayne, some of whom, of course, 

we've already mentioned. With whom did you particularly 

enjoy working? 

KISTLER: Oh, I enjoyed working with all of them. I 

enjoyed the work all the time. There isn't an artist that 


I worked with that I would say that I didn't enjoy working 

with them. I enjoyed my work. 

RATNER: You just loved printing so much. 

KISTLER: Yeah. There isn't an artist that I ever worked 

with that I didn't enjoy my experience with them. 

RATNER: Well, that's a pretty impressive list I just read, 

and I know that it's much longer than that. Those were 

just a few names that I pulled out. Are there any 

memorable experiences with those people? Any of those 

people that stand out in your mind? 

KISTLER: Oh, I probably could dredge some up, but I can't 

think of any right off. 

RATNER: Well, maybe you'll think of it over the next week 

or so, and you can tell me next time if you think of 

anything that was-- 

KISTLER: Well, I had the closest association with Jean 

Chariot of any of them. 

RATNER: Right, which we covered last time. 

KISTLER: Yes, and I did-- I think that I have told you 

some of the-- 

RATNER: Right, of those stories. 

KISTLER: --experiences that I had with him. 

RATNER: Right. I just wondered if anything stood out in 

your mind with any of these other artists, but maybe it 

will just come to you while you're thinking about another 



KISTLER: I don't know. It's hard for me to recall — 

RATNER: I know I'm putting you on the spot here. 

KISTLER: Yeah, I'm just trying to-- 

LELAH KISTLER: He worked with over seven hundred artists. 

RATNER: I know. Well, maybe we'll wrap it up here for 

today. Then if some funny story or interesting situation 

comes to you over the next week or so, maybe you'll 

remember it or jot it down or something, and you can tell 

me about it next time we meet. 

KISTLER: Well, some of the experiences I had were outside 

of the printing experience: personal experiences and 

things like that. And I've told you about the association 

that Jean Chariot had with one collector here-- 

RATNER: Right. Yes, you told me about that. 

KISTLER: Which I thought — I don't like to place the man 

in any bad judgment at all, because we all have our 

peculiarities, and to me they were just little strange 

quirks that they had. The same way as I have some strange 

quirks. I find there are people who feel that I am strange 

in a lot of ways. 

RATNER: Okay, well, maybe we'll wrap it up here, and then 

we can pick up with some other subjects next time we meet. 



MARCH 7, 1989 

RATNER: I'd like to begin today by talking about some of 
your publishing and publicity efforts. The first thing I 
wanted to talk about was in regard to your publication 
entitled Bulletin . I first came across a mention of this 
in some correspondence dated from February 1948. 
Unfortunately, it was only mentioned--I wasn't able to see 
a copy. But in a letter to Jean Chariot of that date, you 
say that the publication is doing quite well, that the 
artists like it very much, and it's bringing in both new 
artists and buyers. What can you tell me about that? 
KISTLER: Oh, gee, that's so long ago I can hardly tell you 
very much. It was a publicity effort on my part, and I 
carried on for a short length of time, maybe a year or two, 
and sent out little bulletins about the artists' work and 
about the work that I was doing there. It was promotional 
entirely, and that's about all it amounted to. It did 
attract some attention and it got me some business, and 
that's what it was, a business-building effort. It was 
slanted towards the interests of the artists. I didn't 
take any editorial positions. I didn't try to change any 
of the marketing or anything like that, or the movement, 
but it was just to tell them about what we were doing in 
the business. And getting artists to come into the print 


room and get them working on stone- -that was my principal 
object. It was an effort, too, as far as possible, to 
reach the public in the distribution of prints and get them 
to come in, and it did have some effect. One thing about 
it that would bring them in-- They'd come in and they'd go 
through my entire file of prints, and they'd have one or 
two that they thought that they might like and that they'd 
be back in a day or two and tell me whether they wanted 
them. And after having put in two or three hours with them 
and going through my files and everything, why, they 
decided that that wasn't exactly what they wanted, but they 
wanted something else. [laughter] So it was one of those 
things that made an awful lot of work and didn't pay off as 
far as the sale of prints was concerned, although I 
remember it did bring in one print collector that bought, 
oh, $1,000 or $1,500 worth of prints at one time. Of 
course, that hooped things up greatly. 
RATNER: I bet. 

KISTLER: That helped a lot, [laughter] and kept it going 
for a while longer. But it was my means of keeping in 
touch with the artists and letting them know that I was 
still active and everything. 
RATNER: What was the format like? 

KISTLER: Oh, it was just a little 4" X 9" folder that I 
think was either six or eight pages. 


RATNER: And where did the mailing list come from? 
KISTLER: Well, it came from a good many sources. It was 
sent out to the art schools and all of the artists that I 
had on my list. And I did have a pretty good list of 
artists. I had 400 or 500 that I was working with at one 
time, and during the time that I was active in printing 
from stone, why, I printed with over 700 different 
artists. I had a list of most of them. I had a list of 
450 names when I finally compiled it, but I know that there 
were more than that during the time that I was in the 
business that I worked with. 

I wasn't in the business of collecting as much as I 
was trying to get distribution, and I should have kept a 
file of everything that I printed. It would have been a 
nice thing to have, and it would have been very valuable 
today. But I was so anxious to get people to buy just that 
one copy of the thing that they wanted, why, I sold it to 
them, and in some cases gave it away if people were 
interested in my work and I felt they could be of help to 
promote lithography. If they liked something, why, if I 
thought that it was important enough, I would give it to 
them to get them started, so that my files were depleted. 
Sometimes I had two or three copies and I could dispose of 
them. I'd give away the third copy, in lots of cases, if 
it was something that seemed to have a possibility of 


furthering my work. 

RATNER: How about the list of potential collectors? How 
did you come up with that list? 

KISTLER: Well, people were interested in what I was 
doing. They came to my place, and I kept their names. I'd 
see their name in the paper and look up their address, and 
I'd put them on my list. I'd accumulate my list of 
collectors in various ways. The dealers, of course, would 
not cooperate with me to the point of where they would put 
their customers' names in my hands, and so I had to compile 
my own list. It was the kind of a job that I had to do on 
my own. I couldn't depend upon anyone turning a list over 
to me. 

RATNER: Do you have any copies of it left anywhere, do you 

KISTLER: No, I don't. Oh, I may in some of my papers. 
RATNER: You could try and track one down. In that letter 
to Jean Chariot that I just mentioned a few minutes ago, 
you ask him to write a short signed article for the 
Bulletin of two hundred to three hundred words on the 
importance of a competent printer. Then in a later 
correspondence. Chariot mentions to you that Lawrence 
Barrett, I guess, was hoping that you would publish a 
Barrett-submitted article in your Bulletin , so I guess you 
were asking a variety of people to write articles as well. 



RATNER: Who else did you ask to contribute? 

KISTLER: I can't remember. I just — 

RATNER: So you think you published that for about a year 

or so? 

KISTLER: Oh, a year or two. It didn't have a regular 

publication date. It just came out such times as there was 

something to publish. 

RATNER: Well, then in 1950, shortly thereafter, you 

published your own lithography manual [ How To Make a 

Lithograph ] . I want to read a few of the remarks on the 

book jacket, which are really eloquent testimony to your 

skill. [Kistler laughs.] They are! 

So I'm going to start with Jean Chariot. Of course, 
he was the artist that you printed with for a long time. 
It says, "Lynton Kistler and I started printing colored 
lithographs together close to twenty years ago. He is one 
of the master printers today and has done more to raise the 
quality of original art on the West Coast than most 
artists. " 

Then Carl Zigrosser, who was curator of prints at that 
time at the Philadelphia Museum of Art--of course, went on 
to do other things--says, "Mr. Lynton Kistler--" So here's 
somebody all the way on the other side of the country who 
is writing about you. "Mr. Lynton Kistler is one of the 


most distinguished lithographic printers of our time, and 
it is indeed good news that he is preparing a handbook on 
the craft. Technical manipulation in the graphic arts, 
particularly in lithography, too often has been treated as 
a jealously guarded trade secret. It is, therefore, 
gratifying that one more master is willing to share his 
know-how with the world. As to Mr. Kistler's competence in 
the field, I need but say his work speaks for itself." 

Then--I'm not f inished--Lorser Feitelson, of course a 
Los Angeles artist, says, "I consider Lynton Kistler's book 
on lithography an important contribution to the technical 
literature of the graphic arts. Kistler's long experience 
in fine art lithographic printing has established him as 
one of the leading authorities in this specialized craft." 

Then Stanton Macdonald-Wright, of course an important 
modernist and a professor of art at UCLA, says, "Lynton 
Kistler is, in my opinion, one of the most craftsman-like 
lithograph printers living today. His sensibility to fine 
art goes far beyond that of all save the most savant 
artists. His book should be welcomed by every department 
of art of our educational system that cherishes excellent 
workmanship. " 

So with that said, how did that whole project come 
KISTLER: [laughter] I don't know. Well, I just wanted to 


publish a manual on printing lithographs. You've seen it, 

I guess. 

RATNER: Yes, I did. 

KISTLER: It isn't an outstanding printing job, but I still 

think that it is one of the most concise books of 

directions that anyone could have. It covered the whole 

field, and if you followed the instructions in the book, 

why, you'd get a good lithograph. That's my feeling about 


RATNER: So what made you decide to do that at that 

particular time? 

KISTLER: Oh, well, I can't remember. I can't tell you 

what the motive was. I was active in everything that had 

to do with lithography at that time, and I felt as though 

if there were more printers and more people interested in 

the art, it would be beneficial. If there were more people 

that were bringing promotional efforts to lithography, that 

it would be beneficial to me and to the whole movement in 

the long run. 

RATNER: To whom did you distribute the book? 

KISTLER: Well, everybody that would buy it. I sold it 

through the bookstores. Dawson's Book Shop handled quite a 

few of them. People bought them by mail--I sold some by 

mail. Libraries bought it. It received general 

distribution. I was cramped for funds and I had to resort 


to reproduction for the text. I printed it on 8 l/^" X 11" 
sheets, the text. Then it was published with a series of 
illustrations, and those were printed in regular offset 
printing. The size of the book, I believe, is 9" X 12". 
It was a fairly good size. You've seen it. 
RATNER: Yes, with really nice photographs in it. 
KISTLER: Yes, the series of photographs I felt were 
exceedingly good. There was a young chap [Fred Swartz] 
that was taking a course in photography at one of the art 
schools here--I can't remember which one it was--but each 
one of them had to have a project, and he came to me and 
asked me if I would allow him to photograph my process. I 
told him that I would be glad to, and he made a project of 
photographing my work. He was an excellent craftsman and 
did a very good job, I thought, both in the selection of 
the various stages of the process and in posing the people 
that were involved. I engaged him to do some work for 
me. I didn't have-- One feature of the thing was that he 
did it, but it didn't cost me anything, and he gave me a 
set of the photographs for the privilege of doing the work, 
so that it worked out awfully well for me. Then, later, 
when he went into business, why, I did buy some photography 
from him. He photographed quite a number of the people 
that I was working with, but that was rather hard for me to 
carry the burden of the expense, and also it was difficult 


to get the artists into the shop at the right time and 
everything. There were a lot of arrangements necessary. 
But I did photograph quite a number of people that I worked 
with: Eugene Herman and Chariot and Phil Dike and quite a 
number of others that I worked with. 
RATNER: How long was that book in print? 
KISTLER: Well, until it was sold out. 
RATNER: So you just did the one printing? 
KISTLER: Yes, we just did the one printing. I always 
intended to revise it and bring it out in a regular library 
edition, but I never got around to it. It's still kind of 
a hanging activity that might crop up someplace. Peter 
Morse was very anxious to do a complete book on lithography 
with me, but it didn't seem to come off in my mind, so we 
never got to it. I'd rather do, I think, a series of books 
on lithography than do a thing like Peter Morse had in mind 
and wanted to get out, a complete searching of the process 
and going into a lot of the technical, chemical aspects of 
it, which I wasn't interested in. I was interested in the 
art of lithography rather than its technical aspects. It's 
been done by Tamarind [Lithography Workshop]. A thing that 
I should have done, I guess, but it seemed too much to 
undertake. Too much research, too much fiddling around in 
the libraries and things like that. And I was interested 
in getting my sleeves rolled up and doing things on the 


lithograph press. That was the thing that interested me. 

My work was done from that standpoint. I wanted to see a 

product when I did it. I didn't want to write about it 

very much. I was willing to give such information as I 

had. A lot of people came to me and asked me about various 

aspects of the lithography, and I went out to clubs and to 

art schools and to various groups and talked about 

lithography and told them how it was done and everything. 

But I wasn't much interested in researching the chemical 

reactions and just how they turned out. I was interested 

in the artistic end of it. 

RATNER: Well, it's obvious that you enjoyed that part of 


KISTLER: I did. I loved to print. It was a great thrill 

to me to pull a piece of paper off a stone and have a 

beautiful print. I loved it. 

RATNER: I bet. It must have been exciting. 

KISTLER: As long as I could eat, why, I was satisfied. 

RATNER: Not too much to ask. [laughter] 

KISTLER: All I wanted to do was print and eat. Eating was 

a very necessary adjunct to my printing. [laughter] 

RATNER: Well, it's evident that you wanted to share your 

love of the work with other people. Not only so you could 

eat, but just, you know, all the incredible effort you put 

into promoting the work, I read in one place that in 


October '51 you're saying in a letter, I think to Chariot, 
that you have so much to do in the way of promotion: 
spending three hours for the promotional work versus one 
hour for production time. Then in 1951, also, I read that 
you were planning a catalog and a traveling show that would 
include about twenty-five artists, which is kind of a big 
show to circulate yourself. What was the level of interest 
in prints at this time, in the early fifties, around the 
country that you were able to circulate a show like that? 
KISTLER: Oh, gee, I don't recall. I don't even recall 
right off the top of my head where I sent them, I know 
that I did exhibit in Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, and 
on the East Coast--Cincinnati and Chicago and New York, 
Brooklyn- - 

RATNER: So a pretty wide distribution. 

KISTLER: Yes, I did. Anyplace that would make a place for 
my show, why, I sent it. I don't remember just how many 
there were. I don't even remember any of the prints, but 
if I knew the date on them, why, I could probably tell you 
who the artists were. But Jean Chariot was very helpful. 
His name became very well known. He was a much loved 
teacher, and the artists followed his work quite 
actively. His name meant quite a bit. There were other 
artists that their name meant a lot too, as Joe [Joseph] 
Mugnaini, who was a very, very well known teacher. I got 


an awful lot of work through him. I did quite a bit of 

work with Mugnaini. He was very prolific and imaginative 

and well founded in mythology and history and art, and he 

was a very good man to work with. I think that his work 

will be worth a good deal, and I did quite a volume of 

printing with him. I did a ten-lithograph portfolio with 

him that I think someday will be sought after with a great 

deal of effort. One of those is that print up there. 

That's one of the ten. 

RATNER: What's that called? 

KISTLER: That is called-- Oh, I think it's [pause] A Tower 

on Mars . 

RATNER: A Tower on Mars . 

KISTLER: And there's this one here, which I think has a 

lot of imagination and a tremendously interesting print. 

RATNER: And does that have a title on it? 

KISTLER: What is the title? 

RATNER: I might be able to get up and look at that. Let's 

see how far I can go. It's this one right here-- 

KISTLER: No, no-- 

RATNER: The Dragon , it's called. Yeah, The Dragon . He 

did some work with Ray Bradbury, I think, didn't he? 

KISTLER: Yes, he did. Ray Bradbury worked with Joe 

Mugnaini, and I think he is still working with him. He is 

someone that you ought to look up and do the same thing for 


him that you're doing on my work here. You'd have a 

tremendous lot. I think that you'd find him really 


RATNER: Okay. 

KISTLER: He's been a teacher for a long period of time. 

He works in all kinds of media and is very prolific, quite 

profane in a lot of ways. But his imagination has a broad 

aspect to it. 

RATNER: Well, I was wondering how you had time to organize 

those kinds of activities when you were also so busy 


KISTLER: Well, they just came off the top of my head, that 

was all. 

RATNER: How much help did you have, though, to pull those 

kinds of things together? 

KISTLER: I don't remember. I think that I did them when I 

didn't have anybody to print for. 

RATNER: So you were really a one-man show in a lot of 


KISTLER: Well-- 

RATNER: You had a pressman, I know. 

KISTLER: --really I was too much that way. I should have 

put in some time organizing a lithographic club and gotten 

a group together, and I think that my work would have 

received more attention if I had worked on a broader 


basis. But I think that my work was more or less 

personal. I just liked to print, that was all. And I went 

about it in the most direct way, and that was to get 

artists in. When they came to me, why, I printed for 

them . 

RATNER: Well, in addition to all these promotional kinds 

of things we've talked about and the publishing of the 

Bulletin and the book on lithography--! can't believe how 

busy you were--in April of '51, you mention in a letter to 

Chariot that you are going to begin to give lithography 

classes with guest artists. Each session would last 

approximately one month and would teach both technique and 

the art. The teachers that you had lined up included 

Stanton Macdonald-Wright , Clinton Adams, and Richard 

Haines. I guess you asked Chariot, also, if he would be 

willing to teach. 

KISTLER: Yes, I did, but I never got that organized. 

RATNER: That program never got off the ground? 

KISTLER: No, no, it didn't. 

RATNER: Oh, it was a great idea. 

KISTLER: Well, it was, but it would have been a great idea 

if I had gotten the artists that I had expected to and had 

wanted to. 

RATNER: So it was on the part of the artists that it 

didn't work out? You couldn't get the-- 


KISTLER: Oh, I can't blame them. 

RATNER: Artists who were going to come in and learn or 

artists who were going to teach? 

KISTLER: They were going to teach. 

RATNER: Those were the people that you were having trouble 

lining up? 


RATNER: I see. 

KISTLER: I really bit off too much sometimes. 

RATNER: Well, you certainly had a lot going in those two 

or three years there. 

KISTLER: Yes. I tried to work in too many directions. I 

should have had people that could help me out on it. But 

there was nobody that was available. There were one or two 

teachers and a teacher at USC [University of Southern 

California] . And UCLA finally got their own art department, 

and June Wayne ran off in her own direction, and-- 

RATNER: Then here's another thing you planned at about the 

same time also, which I'm not sure happened, but in a 

letter to Jean Chariot dated July '51, you mention plans to 

write a definitive textbook for students on lithography. 

Apparently, a number of people had already agreed to 

contribute chapters, including Merle Armitage, Clinton 

Adams, June Wayne, William Brice, Richard Haines, and 

possibly Eugene Berman and Rico Lebrun. You go on to say 


that you're basing the book on the best artists that you've 
printed and that each artist would discuss how he had 
approached the medium, the technical aspects, etc., and 
that it would include one example of each artist's work 
with the individual ' s commentary on how the work was 
accomplished. Then you would, in turn, discuss what was 
involved in printing that particular work. What was the 
genesis of that whole project? 

KISTLER: Well, I think what you read there is a genesis of 
it. It was a thing that I wanted to do that I just had too 
much that I was trying to do. I couldn't bring it all off. 
RATNER: That was another good idea. 
KISTLER: Yeah, it was a good idea. 

RATNER: Well, that's great that all of those people had 
agreed to participate and to contribute. 

KISTLER: But none of them ever turned in their papers or 
anything, so I never-- I had too many fish to fry all in 
one skillet. [laughter] Some of them just never got into 
the frying pan. Maybe I had too many ideas. Sounds to me 
like I did, now that you bring them to my attention. 
RATNER: Well, they were a lot of very good ideas. 
KISTLER: Yes, I think they were. 

RATNER: At least the ideas you had were good ones. 
KISTLER: Well, I've had a lot of good ideas. My whole 
trouble is getting them going. 


RATNER: Well, here's something you did do. In 1952 you 
prepared and circulated a catalog of prints for Jean 
Chariot and Eugene Berman. You mailed it to art schools, 
museums, and collectors to help sell their prints. And 
you, in previous sessions, mentioned Eugene Berman, but we 
never talked about how you met him. 

KISTLER: Well, I met him through Jean Chariot. He brought 
him to me, and I worked with him. He was one of the 
outstanding artists that I did work with. He was not 
particularly fond of the lithographic medium. He expected 
more of it than he put into it, really. He worked very 
hard, but he was a hard man to satisfy and he was very 
critical of the work that I did. He didn't think that I 
was getting out of the stone the thing that he put on it, 
and I tried to convince him that I did do his work as well 
as it could be done. He seemed to think that there ought 
to be things that come out of the stone that he didn't put 
on the stone. He was not a finished technician, and I 
couldn't take him beyond his own abilities. 

So he started to look around town for another litho- 
grapher. He thought he'd get somebody who would do a 
better job than I was doing. And he went to Lorser 
Feitelson, and he said, "Lorser, I'm working with a litho- 
grapher down here, and I don't think that he's getting--" 
[tape recorder off] He went to Lorser and said, "Lorser, 


I'm working with a lithographer down here, and I don't 
think he knows his business." So Lorser says, "Well, who 
are you working with?" He said, "Well, I'm working with 
Kistler." And Lorser said, "Well, good Lord," he says, 
"that's the best man there is. What do you want?" 
[laughter] So he very humbly came back to me, and he was a 
good dog after that. [laughter] I had no more trouble 
with him. He realized that I had my problems in getting 
out of the stone what he expected of it, and if it wasn't 
there, that we could work around some way to get it out of 
the stone or get it on the stone so that I could get it out 
of the stone. 

There's one print that I did with Eugene Berman which 
is called Nocturnal Cathedral . It was a four-color 
lithograph, and we worked on it quite a long time. I 
remember one proof of the Nocturnal Cathedral that I pulled 
for him, and, gee, he just marked it up in all kinds of 
ways. This was wrong and that was wrong, too dark here, 
too light there, too much this, too much that, the ink 
wasn't right, and everything else. Then he left for the 
East, and I sent him the final print on it. He sent it 
back as a proof for me to work to, and it said, "Bravo! 
Beautiful." [laughter] But I've never had so much markup 
and so much to correct and so much to do on a stone to 
bring it into what he expected of it, and I was very much 


elated when I got it back. Both the print that is all 
marked up and also the final printing of the print is in 
the Smithsonian Institution now. 


MARCH 7, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, before I flipped the tape, you were just 

telling me--wrapping up the story about Eugene Berman--that 

the print's in the Smithsonian. What else did you want to 

add about that? 

KISTLER: Well, that's about all. It ended up in the 

collection in the Smithsonian Institution: the marked-up 

print, the corrections that he wanted on it, and also this 

final print that had written on it, "Bravo! Beautiful. 

Excellent. " 

RATNER: That's great, that's great. Those were prints 

that were part of your collection that went to the 



RATNER: What gallery represented him in town? 

KISTLER: I don't believe he had any recognition here. He 

was more a set designer for stage sets and things like 

that. The work that we did together, they all reflected 

that theatrical aspect. This print the Nocturnal Cathedral 

was very, oh, theatrical, you know. It reflected that, the 

theater, very much. 

RATNER: Okay. Well, shortly thereafter, in 1952, which 

we've talked about a little bit previously, actually, you 

apparently developed a really painful allergy to the acids 


used in the hand printing. 

RATNER: And so you had stop most of your printing from 
stone. I guess your wife at the time, Helen [Mikesell 
Kistler] , she seems to have been fairly involved in the 
business. I read somewhere that she was really urging you 
to increase your commercial clientele, which was not only 
more lucrative, but it seems it was less abrasive on your 
skin. So you sold the property at Third [Street] and 
Carondelet [Street] and set up a shop at 1653 West Temple 
[Street], which you've mentioned before, where you 
installed power printing equipment. 

KISTLER: I bought two printing presses there to start 
with. The business went very well. I could never get away 
from the artistic end of the thing, and this thing with 
Stanton Macdonald-Wright and several of the prints that I 
did with Jean Chariot-- The second Picture Book [ Picture 
Book No. II ] was done by a direct printing from a 
lithographic plate on an offset press. I explored the 
possibilities there to quite an extent. 

RATNER: That's what I was wondering. By using the offset, 
what additional or innovative materials were you able to 
use, in terms of the fine art printing, that you couldn't 
do with stone lithography? 
KISTLER: Well, I think that what I did was to try to apply 


to the offset press the results that I got in hand 
printing, and I think that I did it to an unusual degree. 
RATNER: What kind of effects would the average printer 
lose in offset, as opposed to stone, that you were trying 
to achieve? Do you know what I'm saying? 

KISTLER: Oh, that's a tough one. Well, principally, the 
intimacy of working on the stone. The printer could have 
greater access to corrective facilities. I never-- There 
are certain things about a stone quality that are awfully 
hard to duplicate exactly on an offset press, but I think 
that I came pretty close to doing it. I could print larger 
editions on the offset press than I could by hand because 
of the cost, because it costs too much to print them by 
hand. But, on the other hand, you had to have large 
editions to make it pay, because it was more expensive to 
set up the press, get it started, and get the prints 
printing the way that you wanted them to. On the offset 
press it was harder than on the handpress. 
RATNER: Really? 

KISTLER: On the handpress I could run up a proof in a few 
minutes. Simply put the stone on the press and yank it up 
and pull it through the press. But on the offset press you 
had to make so many adjustments. You had to accommodate 
the press to the size of the paper that you were printing 
on, the kind of paper that you were printing on, and you 


had to get your ink set. You'd have to pull numerous 
proofs just blank, and I had a stack of paper about three* 
or four feet high that I used as wastepaper that we had to 
run through the offset press. You'd have to set the press 
as it was running. You had to set a feeder on the press 
and the pressures and everything, and they all had to be 
accommodated in running condition. To print a hundred 
prints, why, you'd have to pull two hundred or three 
hundred prints to get it set, to get the ink flowing evenly 
over the whole surface of the plate and get the proper 
amount on and set up all of the requirements. 

So that you had an expensive piece of machinery tied 
up, and sometimes it was just laying there while the artist 
was making changes on it on the offset press. Whereas you 
could lift the stone off of the stone printing press and 
give it to the artist and he could work on it on a bench, 
and you put another stone on and go ahead with it. But you 
couldn't do that on the offset press, because once you've 
started the job on the press, you had to achieve your 
printing, your final printing. Your edition had to be 
printed at that time, and the artist had to make up his 
mind in less time to give his okay. For instance, if the 
artist wanted to think it over for a day, why, that would 
mean that you would have to lay up your press for a day, 
because you had it set just the way that it would be for 


the printing. There are a number of things like that that 
are really mechanical and indigenous to the offset printing 
that do not occur in the stone printing. 

In printing some of the things that I did for 
Macdonald-Wright and some others that ran into several 
colors, it became quite complicated and stretched out over 
a long period of time. You take a press that commercially 
you could make $200 or $300 a day on just printing 
commercial work, make that much profit, it became a 
financial problem. Because, also, if you only had one 
press, why, you'd have one pressman. You're losing the 
pressman's time, and also it costs money to keep an offset 
press on the floor just sitting there. So there was a 
financial problem that had to be met, and the artist, for 
that reason, was pushed quite heavily. When they started 
the thing, they had to be-- Well, they had to know what the 
result was that they were trying to achieve so that there 
wasn't too much wasted time in laying around. 

That could be overcome with larger editions. It would 
take a day's time to pull a good edition of fifty to a 
hundred prints by hand in a stone printing, and your 
capacity on the offset press was several thousand. You 
could do fifteen thousand or twenty thousand prints in a 
day. It had that capacity. I never printed quite that 
many, but you could if you had distribution for them. 


When I closed my plant completely, I was up against-- 
I told you before that I had this problem of allergies 
amongst myself and my health, and my pressman was 
quitting. It had taken me quite a long time to get 
somebody that could do the work and would do it and was 
patient enough to the unorthodox method of running an 
offset press that we used it for, that is to stop it and 
sometimes stand around for an hour or two while corrections 
were made on the plate or a new plate was provided by the 

But, by and large, the result that you could get on 
the offset press matched that that you could get on the 
stone, that is, if you could get zinc. The commercial 
people quit using zinc-- 
RATNER: Right, you mentioned that. 

KISTLER: --because it was difficult to print from, and 
aluminum came in. Aluminum was a much better metal as far 
as reproductive work was concerned, and so they just quit 
rolling zinc. So it came down, eventually, so that you 
couldn't get the zinc grained properly and you couldn't get 
the metal in the first place, and so we had to accommodate 
ourselves to the aluminum in the offset work. That was 
overcome by the number of colors that you would print on a 
print, for one thing--one way of getting around it--and 
various accommodations that we had to make in putting the 


work on the plate. 

The supply people who were able to furnish good 
lithographic materials like etches and gums and things of 
that sort commenced to change their chemicals and things, 
and that made it a difficulty as far as doing artists' work 
on the offset press. But it could be worked out. Then 
this other problem of the fact that you'd have to air- 
condition your plant for the health of the employees and 
take some good many other ramifications and use different 
materials to protect people from, you know, just-- They 
would develop horrible sores and rashes and things like 
that, and you'd only overcome it by eliminating materials 
that you were using. We were up against that. So today 
they've worked it out so there are more facilities for 
adjusting the press. You don't have to get your hands into 
an offset press today to run it as much as we did when I 
was doing it. We had to have our hands in the acid and in 
the water and everything, and it's just hard on you, hard 
on a printer physically. So with all of those problems 
that I was faced with, I just figured that I couldn't go 
any further with it. Some of them have been worked out, 
and I don't know just what they're doing now. 
RATNER: Well, let me back up just a little bit to when-- 
When you first moved to the new location, you started using 
these power presses. A few artists that you had already 


been printing with for some time, such as Chariot and 
Clinton Adams and Eugene Berman and June Wayne, they 
continued to print with you. Did you still have a stone 
press in this place, or were they all using the offset? 
KISTLER: Yes, I still had a stone press, and I did some 
stone work for a while. 

RATNER: Then I know some artists resisted the idea of 
using the offset. They just wanted to do the stone 
printing. I know you just gave me a number of reasons. 
Were there any other major reasons why an artist would 
prefer to remain with the stone rather than using the 

KISTLER: Well, the cost of short editions was so high on 
the offset press that there were only a few of them that 
could use it. The costs went up considerably on the offset 
press, which at that time was maybe $30 or $40 an hour. 
The artists just couldn't stand it. It was too much. I 
couldn't stand it either. 

RATNER: You'd think, without knowing all the details, that 
being able to print more per hour, of course, would be less 
expensive. But then you don't realize all the setup time 
and everything involved. 

KISTLER: Yes. The whole thing is too big a thing. It was 
too large a project. In other words, you had to have an 
expensive printing plant. You had to have the following 


that wanted the lithographs that would take the 
production. You could overcome the situation by printing 
enough prints. If you could print a thousand of a print-- 
And you could do that in a few minutes of actual running 
time. After you'd gotten it, of course, set up, it was 
nothing at all. You could run a thousand prints in fifteen 
or twenty minutes after you had gotten it to running. But 
what are you going to do with a thousand prints after 
you've got them? You've got to have a large organization 
that is really pushing them the way that things are pushed 
on the television now and on radio and newspaper. Gee, the 
advertising that is done today is just stupendous. You're 
not buying the product. You're buying today the privilege 
of being sold. The selling of the product doesn't anywhere 
match or has no relation to the cost of the materials at 
the time of the manufacturing of the product. Many of 
these things, particularly things like canned goods and 
toothpaste and things like that, there's no relation. 
RATNER: Though I guess a lot of artists probably wouldn't 
have even wanted such a large edition anyway. 
KISTLER: They had no way to get rid of them. 
RATNER: Yeah, yeah. 

KISTLER: Never able to establish a distribution. It's 
open today if somebody would take it up and really push it 
and put it on television. People buy anything you — 


RATNER: Yeah. 

KISTLER: And at any cost. 

RATNER: What was the gallery and museum situation in terms 

of interest during the early fifties? I know I have here 

in a letter to Jean Chariot during the early fifties, this 

period when you have just moved your plant and prior to-- 

You say, "There is considerable new interest in prints 

here. One or two galleries are specializing in them." 

This is a gallery I hadn't heard of: "Chabot Gallery is a 

small gallery on the edge of Beverly Hills with a very good 

following." What do you recall about that? 

KISTLER: Well, Chabot tried to sell prints, but they just 

didn't see far enough or see big enough, and they didn't 

have the capitalization to do the job. 

RATNER: So how long were they around? 

KISTLER: Oh, they were around for eight or ten years, 

something like that. They eked out a living at it. 

RATNER: So they were one of the few that were really 

concentrating on prints, it sounds like. 

KISTLER: Yes, but they couldn't sell any great body of 

prints. You'd have to have a hundred galleries that were 

interested in it, and it's something that could be done 

today if you had enough money--a matter of money entirely — 

and put on an advertising campaign. That thing there, the 

television, would be just absolutely perfect for doing 


it. But I never was in contact with anybody that had the 
money, because it might run into $2 or $3 million. It 
would pay off proportionately, but it costs money. It 
costs more money to sell the goods today in so many 
instances than it does for the manufacture of the goods. 
The advertising and the distribution is so expensive. You 
buy toothpaste, and the cost of the materials that go into 
the toothpaste, there isn't twenty-five cents worth, 
including all of the packing, the printing of the boxes, 
and the materials to make the toothpaste, and everything 
else. It has absolutely no relation to what you pay for 
it. It is a few cents, and it sells for three and four 
dollars a little dinky tube. 

RATNER: Yeah. I also just wanted to ask you before we 
wrapped up today a couple of things about kind of what was 
happening in Los Angeles during the fifties. I think I 
mentioned to you before that I had read an interview with 
June Wayne to help me prepare for your interview, and she 
recounts an incident that occurred during the McCarthy era, 
when some members of the Los Angeles City Council attempted 
to censor the subject matter in various artists' work. I 
guess a whole group of artists went down to the city 
council and protested or something, and I wondered what you 
recalled about any of those incidents or that period in 
general . 


KISTLER: I didn't get involved in that at all. 

RATNER: Okay. Then finally, following some of these 

incidents, I guess to help people understand modern art 

better, the Ford Foundation funded a series called "You 

and Modern Art, " which was organized by Jules Langsner, and 

I wondered how familiar you were with that series. 

KISTLER: Well, I wasn't familiar with that at all. That 

was the thing that he tried to do. It never got off the 

ground either. 

RATNER: It didn't? 


RATNER: I guess the idea there--which, of course, would 

have helped you in a way- -was to help people understand 

modern art a little bit better, and, of course, to increase 

the interest in the market. 

KISTLER: Well, Jules Langsner was the man who brought June 

Wayne to me. I was the only one that was doing any offset 

printing at that time on stone. He was the man that got 

June Wayne to come into my place. 

RATNER: Okay, I think maybe we'll go ahead and wrap it up 

here and pick it up next time, unless you have anything 

else you wanted to add about what we've talked about today. 

KISTLER: Well, I don't know of anything. 

RATNER: Okay. 

KISTLER: You pull things out of my memory that I had 


forgotten about entirely. 

RATNER: Well, good, that's my job. Okay, well, we'll pick 

it up again next time. 

KISTLER: All right, and what do you want to talk about 

next time? 

RATNER: We're going to talk a little bit more about the 

fifties and the opening of Tamarind and then the move of 

your plant from Temple to Menlo Avenue. 


MARCH 21, 1989 

RATNER: We're going to begin today by looking at a series 
of slides, both from your book on lithography [ How To Make 
a Lithograph ] and then some lithographs that you've printed 
over the years. So why don't you just go ahead and begin 
with this first slide. 

KISTLER: All right, this is one of my students who 
established himself in San Francisco, and he is working in 
his lithograph shop. The stone is on the press. He has a 
sponge in his hand, and he is damping the stone and getting 
ready to roll it. [next slide] This is a first operation 
that I had in making a print. The paper was all damped 
down so that it was just limp. It wasn't real wet. It was 
just limp so that it made-- It fit down onto the stone, and 
you didn't have to use so much pressure to get the 
impression off of the stone. [tape recorder off] 

Well, this is the first operation in preparation of 
the stone. You put one stone on top of the other, and you 
grind off the old image, if necessary, and get a nice grain 
on the stone and get it ready for the artist to work on. 
[next slide] That stone must be absolutely level all over 
the same surface. It is leveled out all over by putting a 
straight edge on the stone and a piece of tissue paper 
under it, and pull it out and you judge how much the stone 


has been ground. You go over the whole stone with that 
straight edge and the piece of tissue paper and pull it 
out, so that you get the same level all over the whole 
stone so that it's even. [next slide] That's where the 
final finish is put on. You start out with a coarse grind, 
and then you put a finer grain on the stone according to 
what the artist wants and whether you want a coarse grain 
or whether you want a fine grain. The grain varies from a 
very fine grain to a very coarse grain. I've used all 
kinds of grain in making lithographs. [next slide] 

That is the artist drawing on the stone. This is Jean 
Chariot working on one of the stones. The drawing is made 
with a grease crayon, and various hardness of crayon gives 
you a difference in the grain on the stone and the 
intensity of the drawing. [next slide] The artist draws 
the design on the stone the right way, and the stone-- Of 
course, some of them object to their drawings being 
reversed, so this is a method that is used when the artist 
wants the drawing to come out the way that they have it 
drawn on the stone. So they draw it backwards, and then it 
prints the right way. 

RATNER: So she's using a mirror there? 

KISTLER: She is using a mirror. The sketch is put up and 
it's reflected into the mirror, and the artist follows the 
design in the mirror rather than the original. 


RATNER: Who is that drawing? 

KISTLER: That's Mary Finley Fry. She was one of my 

lithographers, and she was a very fine lithographer. [next 


The printer has to judge the strength of the etch 
according to the drawing, whether it's on a stone light or 
whether the stone is grained heavily or lightly. According 
to the drawing, the etch, which is composed of gum arable 
and nitric acid-- And I used a few drops of phosphoric acid 
and a little bit of tannic acid in my etch. Using several 
different acids did a great deal for the print. The nitric 
acid, of course, bit into the stone and cleaned it so that 
the gum arable would adhere to the stone. The phosphoric 
acid had a cleaning effect and made the stone run cleaner 
than just with the plain nitric acid that some of the 
lithographers used. And the tannic acid had the effect of 
making the gum a little bit tougher and lasted longer. I 
could print longer without re-etching. I found that it was 
necessary to re-etch the stone as I went along, and using 
this complicated etch I could pull more prints without re- 
etching. The phosphoric acid was not a mordant etch, so it 
cleaned the stone and made the gum arable adhere to the 
stone more firmly in some ways and got away from scumming 
as it printed. It made my prints come clean. I didn't 
have to etch so often. [next slide] 


The etch was put on with a wide camel's hair brush, 
and it was smoothed down and dried. Sometimes we would let 
it, the stone, rest overnight and we wouldn't print until 
the next day. But I found that with my multiple etch--that 
is, using three different acids in my etch--that I could 
print immediately and I wouldn't have any loss of my 
image. I would get as good an impression as I could if I 
left the stone overnight. [tape recorder off] 

Those are the rollers that I used to roll the ink onto 
the stone. [next slide] The first thing was to clean the 
old ink off. I started off by scraping the old ink off of 
the stone. That's a leather-covered roller, and you 
scraped it to get it so that it was clean. You get the old 
ink off, because the ink and the water on the stone have a 
tendency to unite there and make it kind of muddy. You had 
to scrape your roller every once in a while to keep it nice 
and clean. [next slide] The ink is rolled out on a 
slab. I had a large piece of glass that I rolled out my 
ink on and got it very thin, a nice thin film of ink to go 
onto the stone. [next slide] The first thing that we did 
was to wash all of the drawing off of the stone. I used 
water and turpentine to wash all of the crayon off. And it 
didn't damage the image at all. When I got through, why, 
[next slide] there was just the ghost image left on the 
stone. And the water, of course, went where there was no 


ink on the stone, and the turpentine took the ink off of 
the stone, so that you have an absolutely flat surface that 
you're printing from. [next slide] That is-- I'm rolling 
the stone up there, and usually one or two rollings of the 
stone puts enough ink on so that you get a nice, brilliant 
print. [next slide] The edges of the design were usually 
cleaned up before the edition was pulled, because very 
often the artist wanted a sharp edge on their print, and so 
I cleaned it up with a stick of-- Oh, I can't seem to 
function right now. 

RATNER: It was some kind of an eraser? 

KISTLER: Oh, it's just a-- I'm sorry I can't-- [a pumice 

RATNER: That's all right. It will come to you. Do you 
want to just go ahead to the next slide and then maybe 
you'll think of it? 

KISTLER: [next slide] The stone was dried after it was 
rolled. It was dried, and then the paper was laid. It was 
fanned dry. Each one of these prints-- The stone had to be 
dried before I could pull the print. [next slide] The 
paper was laid on the stone, and then [next slide] it was 
pulled through the press. That's the scraper press. You 
put packing on top of the paper and then a tympan for it to 
ride on, and you pull it through the press. It's a 
scraping effect. You put a little grease on the tympan to 


make it slide easily, and you pull the stone under the 
scraper, which is held as a part of the press. The stone 
is pulled under the scraper to get the impression. [next 
slide] And that is pulling the impression there. You pull 
the paper off, then you have your print. [next slide] 

It's examined by the artist, and if there are any 
corrections, why, you can take out parts and you can put in 
new parts. The drawing can be corrected or changed 
considerably after it has been drawn. I have made 
corrections and changes that changed the complete aspect of 
the print after the first impression. I use a Carborundum 
grit to regrain the stone. You take a small piece of 
stone, and you regrain it right at the point that you want 
to correct it. And you get so that-- It is something that 
has to be done with a great deal of precision and skill on 
the part of the artist and very carefully by the printer 
not to ruin the whole drawing. [next slide] 

This is a device that I made. It's a three-point 
device for registering the print. I found that I could 
print much faster with this device. You lay the three 
points on the paper, which must be uniform. Each one of 
the pieces of paper that you print from must be uniform, 
and you can lay it on there and you can print much 
faster. I had to arrange to take the guide, the three- 
point guide, off before I pulled it through the press. It 


was quite an ingenious rig that I had. It gave me a very 

close registry without too much difficulty, and I could do 

my own laying. It's necessary to have two people to lay a 

print to register if you use needles. And I like this 

method very much. It worked out. 

RATNER: Did you patent that or anything? 

KISTLER: No, I didn't patent it. I had screws that I 

could change the register so that it fit just exactly in-- 

very precise. [next slide] 

After the prints were printed, they had to be dried. 
The ink had to be thoroughly dry, and the prints had to be 
thoroughly dry. They had to be wet down again, and I put 
them between blotters individually and a piece of tissue 
paper over the print to keep it from smudging. I had to 
stack up a stack of prints, fifty or a hundred, and put 
them in this press and press them down. That way I got the 
paper back so that it was smooth. [next slide] That is 
the device that I used to put my chop on the prints that I 
made. I think that I was the first one to use a chop, and 
it is universally used by printers throughout the country 
now. They put that embossing on and that identifies the 
printer, and that's the printer's mark. [next slide] 

This is a man by the name of [Theodore] Van Soelen, 
who was the sheriff of a town in New Mexico. He came over 
to Los Angeles and worked with me, and I made about a dozen 


prints with him. I had people come from all over the 
country to work with me. [next slide] That is Phil Dike, 
who is one of my artists. I made quite a number of prints 
with Dike. [next slide] This is Eugene Berman, who I 
worked with, and he is working on the stone there. [next 
slide] This is Clinton Adams and myself. He is examining 
a print that I've pulled for him. [next slide] This is 
Joe [Joseph] Mugnaini and myself. I did quite a number of 
prints and a portfolio with Joe Mugnaini. He was one of my 
finer printers. [next slide] This is a class in 
lithography. I'm explaining to them about the prints and 
how to put the work on the stone. 
RATNER: Where was that at? 

KISTLER: Well, that was at Third [Street] and-- 
RATNER: Carondelet [Street]? 
KISTLER: Carondelet, yes. 
RATNER: At your own place. 

KISTLER: Yes. And this is a demonstration that I had up 
in Sacramento at the state fair. The Southern Pacific 
Company shipped my press up to the state fair and a number 
of my stones, and I worked before the public there and 
explained to them-- I'm rolling up stone there, and there 
is an artist in the background there and one over at the 
right that is working on the stone. [next slide] 

That's Jean Chariot examining a print that I pulled 


for him. So that gives you an idea of the work that I was 


RATNER: Great. 

KISTLER: I haven't explained it as well as I should. 

RATNER: It was very interesting. So now we're going to go 

on to some of the actual lithographs? 


RATNER: Okay. [tape recorder off] Okay, so we're 

beginning here with the lithographs printed by Lynton 

Kistler . 

KISTLER: Right. I've got to recover that last one. I 

didn't-- [clicks through slides] There we are. That's the 

first print that I ever made. It's Jean Chariot. It's two 

colors, and it was about 22" X 30" in size. 

RATNER: And that's Woman with Child on Back ? 

KISTLER: Yes, Woman with Child on Back . [next slide] 

This is a four-color print that I did with Jean Chariot, 

and it is called Sunday Dress . It is one of the first 

prints that I ever made in color. It came out very well 

and was very popular. I think there were about five or six 

colors in that. [next slide] That is one of the best 

prints that I made of his in black and white. It's called 

The Tortilla Lesson . I have it, a copy of it, in the front 

room there. It is very fine because of the delicate 

drawing that there is in the drawing against an absolutely 


solid black, one of the features of lithography that is so 
valuable. You can get so many shades of color in one 
printing. A lot of very delicate work there that has to be 
held and one of the nicest prints I ever made in black and 
white. [next slide] That is a Mexican dancer, and it's a 
little print from the pamphlet that we got out for the 
first Picture Book , the printing of the first Picture 
Book . That was printed on my machine. It was drawn on 
zinc plates. It had six colors in it, I believe. Malinche 
is what that one's called. [next slide] That is Indian 
Man and is another Chariot. [next slide] This is one of 
the things he made after he went to Hawaii, and it's 

RATNER: Hawaiian Drummer it says right on there. 
KISTLER: Yes, Hawaiian Drummer . And it was rather a large 
print. It was on a 15" X 20" stone, and the print was, oh, 
about 14" X 18" in size, approximately. [next slide] That 
is one of the first color prints that I made. It was in 
four colors, and that is called Pilgrims . [next slide] 
Wherever Jean Chariot went he was very much interested in 
the primitive peoples, so when he went through the Indian 
country, why, he made quite a few things that had American 
Indians as the subject, and these are our Indian dancers, 
[next slide] 

Those prints that you see up above there, they are 


printed on a machine. The plates were hand drawn, and the 
printing was directly from the plates themselves. They 
were printed by the offset process. The advantage in the 
offset is that because there is a double impression-- You 
print from the plate itself to a rubber blanket, and then 
you transfer it from the rubber blanket to the paper. Then 
that way, the artist can work the right way on the plate, 
and it is quite an advantage. I experimented with that 
method of printing and did quite a number of prints by the 
offset method. When I first started printing, for the 
first few years, we had thin-rolled zinc, which we put onto 
the press and wrapped around a cylinder, and they were very 
receptive to the artists' drawings. They were very good to 
work with. They seemed to have an affinity for the ink, 
and for that reason they were very good to use. Later, the 
commercial industry disposed of the zinc plates because-- 
They quit using them because they were difficult to print 
from. You had to be very careful in working with them. 
They started using aluminum plates. The aluminum plates 
ran much cleaner without so much trouble in keeping them 
from scumming and keeping them from filling in. You had to 
have a very good pressman to print by this [the zinc plate] 

RATNER: So this was called Mock Battle ? How many colors 
was this, do you think? 


KISTLER: That was four colors, four colors on that. 
That's Mock Battle . [next slide] And that's Mock 
Victory . They were a pair, and they were both printed from 
the same plate. That is, the press was large enough so we 
could draw both images on the plate and then print them 
both at the same time. [next slide] That is a stone 
print, and it's Hawaiian Drummer . 

RATNER: That's different from the other Hawaiian Drummer 
we saw. 

KISTLER: Yes, he did quite a number of different prints. 
RATNER: Was that later or earlier than the first one? 
KISTLER: That was later than the first one. The first one 
that I showed you was made from stone. I think that this 
one was on a zinc plate. I had quite a few zinc plates 
left, and I used those when I first started making prints 
by the offset method. I don't think that Jean was with me 
when-- He was in Hawaii. I sent the plates to him and he 
made the drawing and he sent the color that he wanted back 
to me, or the sample of the color, and I matched it and I 
printed from a metal plate. I think that one was printed 
from a zinc plate. I liked them to work on those because 
they were so sensitive. But quite a number of the prints 
that I made were made on aluminum plates, and they were 
harder to get a good impression from. [next slide] 

That is a proof for a cover for a slip-case; I think 


^^'s °" Picture Book [No.] II. That is made by stomping 
out the edges all around the gum arabic, and then the 
drawing was made with a brush. The drawing was made with 
an etch. Then the gum arabic was dried, and I took some 
ink and mixed some ink with asphaltum and rubbed that over 
the whole surface of the plate and smoothed it down and 
then put it in the sink and washed it. And wherever the 
artist had drawn with the gum arabic, the plate was 
cleaned, and you have that reverse image coming through, 
[next slide] 

That is a two-color aluminum plate. Jean was on a 
trip to Venezuela at the time, and I sent the plates down 
to him in Venezuela. I sent him two plates, one for the 
blue and the other for the orange, and he made a tracing on 
the plate and-- He drew that and made his drawing to that 
tracing. The tracing was the same on both plates, of 
course, so that the drawing was in register. It was a very 
difficult thing to print, because the plates were in 
transit about two weeks going and coming, and-- 


MARCH 21, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, we were talking about how long this print by 
Chariot, then in Venezuela, was in transit, which made it 
more difficult to print. I think we talked about that a 
little another time too. 

RATNER: It's interesting to see which print it is. What 
is this called? 

KISTLER: [ The Little ] Seamstress . These plates were of 
aluminum, and the tropical weather down in Venezuela as 
well as the shipping, being in shipment for over a month, 
made them very difficult to print. They were not in very 
good condition, and I had a very hard time printing them, 
[next slide] They were printed offset. This is a series 
of five prints [ Kei Viti prints]. It's the last 
lithographs that Jean Chariot made, and they were in 
1978. [next slide] 

That's a kava ceremony. That's the first print in the 
series. There's three colors in that, and it's printed 
offset and from aluminum plates. [next slide] This is 
number two, and that is weaving baskets. There are three 
colors in that as well. [next slide] This is music. 
Let's see. He is playing on that, and that's an ancient 
South Pacific method of playing music, bamboo music. Just 


how it's done I don't know, but this is a trip that Jean 
took to the Fiji Islands, prints of Fiji. [next slide] 
That's bamboo music again. That's just a single piece of 
bamboo, and he's making music with it. It was two 
colors. [next slide] And this is the fifth one. It's not 
a reproduction, but it's the same design as this painting 
that I have here, and there's two colors in that. There 
are just five prints in the series. [next slide] 

This is a young chap that I worked with, and he was a 
paraplegic. He could do nothing with his hands, and he did 
all of his work on the plates with a crayon that was held 
in a crayon holder that was long enough to reach the 
plate. He drew this, and I made this a two-color 
lithograph. He got it in register and everything, in spite 
of the fact that he was drawing with a crayon held in a 
holder in his mouth. He was very persistent in doing the 
work, and I thought it was very remarkable that he was able 
to do anything at all. To attempt a color print with his 
limitations I thought was really a very persistent and very 
remarkable thing. There's two colors on that. The plates 
were aluminum plates, and they were printed in the offset 
process. [next slide] This is another of his drawings. 
RATNER: What was his name? 

KISTLER: Gee, I'm sorry, these names escape me. I knew 
them all very well, but my memory is not as good as it 


should be. [next slide] That is a stone print by 

Henrietta Shore. That's one of the nicest prints that I 

ever did. It was a very coarse-grained stone, and it 

worked out beautifully. 

RATNER: It's really nice. What's the title of that, do 

you know? 

KISTLER: It's Waterlily . [next slide] This is Eugene 

Herman, and that's Pisan Fantasy . That's on stone. [next 

slide] That's Appian Way . 

RATNER: Also by Herman? 

KISTLER: Also by Herman, and it's on stone. [next 

slide] This is one of the most difficult prints that I 

have ever worked on. It's four colors by Eugene Herman, 

and it ' s Nocturnal Cathedral . 

RATNER: Is this the one that he wrote "Hravo" on that you 

were telling me about last week? 

KISTLER: Yes, this is the one that-- He left for New York, 

and he was very much disgusted with the print. I sent the 

proof to him in New York, and he turned it down completely. 

But he marked it all up. Hardly anyplace that he didn't 

want "A little darker here" or "A little lighter here" and 

"Take this out all together." I worked over that whole 

print and sent him this proof of it, and he was very happy 

with it and sent me a copy. He marked "Bravo" on it and 

sent it back, and I was very pleased. That's in the 


Smithsonian [Institution] now. [next slide] That is 
another Herman print, and the distance that he has achieved 
in there, by his drawing, has always amazed me. You can 
see right down through the canal there. That is called 
Verona . I was in Verona, and I didn't see anything that 
looked remotely like that. [laughter] [next slide] This 
is a print that I did with [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright . It 
was one of those problem prints. There's eleven colors on 
that, and I had a terrible time with it. He was ill at the 
time and lived way up the coast in Malibu, and I had to 
take proofs of this print to him on every one of the 
colors, all of the eleven colors. It made a lot of running 
back and forth. He was not an easy man to work with, 
although I could tell by looking at his drawings very often 
that he had not put enough work on them to reflect what he 
wanted to get out of the print. I had to print it anyway 
and take these proofs down that I knew were not suitable, 
and it made an awful lot of running around. There were 
eleven colors on it by the time that I made about twenty- 
two to twenty-five trips down to Malibu. But I felt as 
though the print was important enough to do the work on it. 
RATNER: It's called Gershwin's Music or something like 

KISTLER: That's called Gershwin's Music . 
RATNER: Okay. 


KISTLER: This is one of Joe Mugnaini ' s prints. I have 

that now, and I'm having it framed and I'm going to put it 

on my walls. Joe had tremendous imagination--has, I should 

say, has a tremendous imagination--and he was a delightful 

man to work with. Everything that he brought in had a new 

concept to it. I think that the imagination that is shown 

there is really remarkable. I'm very fond of that. 

RATNER: What's it called? 

KISTLER: Balloon Ascension . [next slide] And that is 

called Carnival . 

RATNER: Also by Mugnaini? 

KISTLER: Also by Mugnaini. Another example of his very 

vivid imagination. [next slide] That is called Flores , 

and it is a piece that I sent out as an advertisement. 

It's drawn directly on the plates and printed from the 

plates on an offset press, and it is four colors. It was 

one of those things that I'm very fond of. 

RATNER: Is that a Chariot print? 

KISTLER: No, that's a Joe Mugnaini print. 

RATNER: Oh, also? 


RATNER: It looks a lot different than the other ones. 

KISTLER: Yes, it is. I think I printed about 525. Yes, 

525 is the edition on that. They were printed on the 

offset press, directly from the plates, and it was my 


Christmas card. Its size is about 16" X 20". It's a good- 
sized print. [next slide] This is a portfolio of 
Mugnaini's, and it's called Ten Views of the Moon . It was 
done in collaboration with Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury and 
Joe Mugnaini consulted together, and the prints that we 
have here are an outcome of these conversations that the 
two men had together. The prints are signed by both 
Mugnaini and Bradbury, Ray Bradbury. [next slide] That 
is-- Can you see that? 

RATNER: I can't read that line. Let me see. Let's see. 
April Witch . 

KISTLER: April Witch , yes, that's right. That's a four- 
color print. [next slide] And that is-- 
RATNER: Robot World this one's called. 

KISTLER: Yes, Robot World . There's four colors in that, 
and it is a protest print. Really, there's quite a bit of 
protest in that print if you follow the symbology there, 
[next slide] That is A Tower on Mars . 
RATNER: You have that out in the other room, right? 
KISTLER: Yes. [next slide] And this is The Hound . [next 
slide] That is Halloween . [next slide] 
RATNER: I can't read the writing on this one. Oh, The 
Leviathan , is that what it is? 

KISTLER: Yes. [next slide] That is A Town on Mars , 
[next slide] And that one — 


RATNER: The Visitor . 

KISTLER: The Visitor . [next slide] That is A Green 

Morning . [next slide] And that's The Dragon , which has an 

awful lot of imagination in it. [next slide] This is a-- 

I can't recall this man's name. I'm sorry. [next slide] 

They're just sketches, and I've forgotten the names of 


RATNER: Well, let me see if I can see it on-- Is it 


KISTLER: Nutting, Myron Nutting, yes. He was a teacher 

and, I think, a superb draftsman. [next slide] This is my 

friend Jan Stussy. He was one of the students at UCLA, and 

his things were very far out all the way through. That's 

Unicyclist . [next slide] And that's a landscape. [next 

slide] In order to get the ink set and the image in the 

right position on the paper, it was necessary sometimes to 

run, oh, as many as fifty to a hundred sheets through the 

offset press. I had a stack of paper that was about three 

feet high of these waste sheets. They were run through 

again and again, sometimes as high as maybe eight or ten 

times. Consequently, over this there were a lot of 

abstract designs that just originated themselves. 

RATNER: Oh, really? [laughter] 

KISTLER: The artists became very intrigued with them, 

particularly Jan Stussy. This is one that he made a silk 


screen and printed that over that design, and this is the 
abstract that evolved from it. 
RATNER: Oh, that's interesting. 

KISTLER: Of course, they were unique prints, all of them, 
because there were no two of them alike, and that went on 
and on in the plant. [next slide] This is called Wash 
Day . It was by Bill [William] Pajaud. He was advertising 
manager at the-- Oh, that insurance company at Adams 
[Boulevard] and Western [Avenue] [Golden State Mutual Life 
Insurance Company] . Well, anyway, he was an advertising 
manager. I'm very fond of that. I think that's a very 
good character sketch. [next slide] This is another one 
of his, and that's Chicken Woman . That's four colors and 
that is-- [next slide] This is another man that I had 
quite a difficult time with in printing. He was at Metro- 
Goldwyn-Mayer , and he's the man that invented the method of 
taking the picture of the capitol-- 

RATNER: Oh, right, you told me that. Warren Newcombe, is 
that who that--? 

KISTLER: Warren Newcombe, yes. They photographed the 
upper part first and then built a scene that matched right 
with it. The lower part they had the action on. They 
couldn't tie up the capitol and they couldn't build a set 
that big, so they built a construction and photographed the 
upper part and then the lower part later. How they did 


that I don't know. But he was so important to Metro- 
Goldwyn that when his contract expired, why, he just locked 
up his studio and left and didn't tell them where he was 
going or anything, and he was gone for two weeks. They 
practically shut down the studio for that length of time. 
So they got busy right away, and he got his contract. 
RATNER: What was this print called? 

KISTLER: That's The Corral . [next slide] And that's 
another one of his, Malibu Mountains . [next slide] That 
man — I don't remember his name. I've got it someplace, 
but I've forgotten what it is. But that's a proof there. 
It's not a signed proof, but he was another motion picture 
director. His little sketches on the edge of the stone 
there where he tried out his crayons and things, I thought 
it was kind of nice to keep the whole thing. 

RATNER: Right. That is nice to be able to see that. 

KISTLER: [next slide] I can't-- That's another one of 

his. Maybe his name is on that. 

RATNER: Yeah, it looks like it is. Let me get situated 

here. Let's see. Herschel Sanders? 

KISTLER: Yes. I'm glad that I discovered that name, 

Herschel Sanders. Let's see, do I have a slip of paper 

that I can write that down on? 

RATNER: Well, I'll write it down for you. I've got it 

right here. 


KISTLER: Yeah, I've got it listed and I couldn't think of 

his name, and so I'm glad to discover-- [next slide] This 

is a man that did Two Coins in a Fountain . You know that 

film? It was very popular at the time. The remarkable 

thing here is this was done on the offset press, and the 

plates were made with a pen that fed the ink down to the 

plate. He drew these without a design or anything. This 

one here, the black, was drawn without his taking his pen 

off of the plate. The other one, I think he didn't do it 

that way, but he drew several and he never took his pen 


RATNER: What was his name? I couldn't see up there. 

KISTLER: Hmm. I can't recall his name now. 

RATNER: Okay. [next slide] 

KISTLER: I'm trying to think of it. [Jean Negulesco] 

Gee, I'm sorry that-- 

RATNER: It's all right. It will come to you. It's fine. 

KISTLER: --my memory is so bad on these things. I-- 

RATNER: Your memory is great. I can't believe you can 

remember all of the titles. 

KISTLER: You should have interviewed me about two or three 

years ago. I was really sharp, and I don't seem to 

remember-- This is called House on Fire . His name is 

Herbert Ryman. He is a man that did the overall designing 

for all four of the Disneyland parks. 


RATNER: That's right. I remember you were telling me you 
went to his funeral a few weeks ago, right? 

KISTLER: Yes. He died just about a month ago, and I went 
to his funeral. It was quite a thing, 
RATNER: Right, I remember you told me about that. 
KISTLER: But this, I thought, was one of his best 
lithographs. It's the last one that he did. He was very 
much dissatisfied with it. He said that he didn't want it 
printed at all, but I pulled two prints. I have one of 
them, which I have at the framer's now, and the other one 
was sold to one of the motion picture people. I don't know 
who. One of the [Walt] Disney [Studio] people, I 
presume. [next slide] That's June Wayne. That's Man and 
Woman . [next slide] That's another one of hers, and I 
don't know what that one is called. Those two are from 
stone. I don't have any of her work left. And that's The 
Tunnel . [next slide] I don't know what that one is 
called. It's another one of June's. [next slide] That's 
another one of hers. [next slide] That's another version 
of The Tunnel . [next slide] I taught her the lithographic 
process, and I worked with her for four years. She was 
very demanding in her work. She was very imaginative. Her 
concepts were very good, but [next slide] I did an awful 
lot of work with her. I worked with her for four years and 
taught her the whole process. 


This is John Kelly, and that's the three-color 
lithograph on aluminum. [next slide] That's another one 
of his. He was an able seaman and never graduated from 
high school--or any school, as far as I ever knew--but he 
was at sea for a number of years and was an accomplished 
artist and made a complete set of the ships that came over 
here on the two hundred year anniversary of the-- 
RATNER: For the bicentennial. 

KISTLER: Bicentennial of the United States. They sent 
ships from all over the world, and he drew quite a number 
of them. And I made lithographs of quite a number of 
them. [next slide] That's another one of his. He was 
interested in trains as well. He was an Englishman. [next 
slide] That's another one. John Kelly was his name, and 
that's San Francisco Cable Car . Rather peculiar 
construction that they have in San Francisco, built right 
up to the edge of the street. [next slide] That is the 
winter scene by John Kelly [ Winter, New York ] . He was a 
very good artist. [next slide] 

That is Millard Sheets. [next slide] That's another 
Millard Sheets. The first one is called New Arrivals , and 
the next one--this one here--is Horse Frightened by 
Lightning . [next slide] This is Richard Haines, another 
one of my very fine artists, and this is Pueblos in the 
Rain. [next slide] This is Bus Stop , and they're both on 


stone. [clicks through slides] This is Phil Dike, and 

this is Balboa Harbor . [next slide] And this is Balboa 

again. This is Phil Dike, another one of his. [next 

slide] This is Marcia Maris, She was the wife of Peter 

Morse, who is an expert on prints. 

RATNER: Right. 

KISTLER: Do you know of him? 

RATNER: Well, we talked about him, and I know a little bit 

about him, too. 

KISTLER: Yes. [next slide] This is a very complicated 

thing. This is four colors printed from a single plate. 

RATNER: This is by her also? 

KISTLER: Yes, Marcia Maris. I turned those around each 

time, and there's four colors over the four printings: red, 

yellow, blue, and black. 

RATNER: That's interesting. 

KISTLER: They all fit, and how she did that I don't 

know. It's an impossibility as far as I'm concerned, 

because every one of those had to fit over the other. 

[next slide] This is another thing that I did with her, 

and there's twenty-eight plates on that. 

RATNER: What was that called? 

KISTLER: Rainbow Castle I think is what it was called. 

Those are all little spots of color, and they're registered 

perfectly. It's a method of registration that I worked 


out. The way that she did that was to make an overall 
drawing, line drawing, of the whole thing, and then she 
colored the various areas with twenty-eight different 
colors and twenty-eight printings in that. White lines run 
between each one of the little dots that make up the 
picture and are absolutely in register. It's a wonderful 
piece of work as far as her work is concerned. The 
registration method that I worked out on it was quite 
unique, too--make twenty-eight plates that print and 
register. That's twenty-eight plates printed and 
registered. [tape recorder off] 

Yes. That's the only lithograph I ever did with 
Lorser Feitelson. It's a very fine piece of drawing. I 
put in about ten or twelve years trying to get him to do 
another one, but he never would do it. 
RATNER: It's really lovely. 
KISTLER: Yeah, it's really a very nice thing. 


MARCH 21, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, so we just flipped the tape, and we're 

continuing on looking at some of the prints that you've 


KISTLER: Yeah, well, this is just a bunch of — I've 

forgotten this man's name. I did-- Well, there it is 

there . 

RATNER: Is it Noel something or--? 

KISTLER: Noel Quinn. 

RATNER: Noel Quinn. 

KISTLER: Yeah, I did a series of racehorses with him, and 

they were impressionistic. I thought that the horsemen 

would be crazy about this because it reflects the racing 

spirit and everything, but I found out that the horsemen 

were not in the least interested in the spirit of the 

race. The thing that they were interested in were the 

points on the horses and things like that. I worked with 

one woman that was up on the various aspects of the horse, 

you know. I did some lithographs with her on that, and 

they had to be exactly right as far as the horse was 

concerned. And they'd just go for those. She sold quite a 

number of the things that I printed. [next slide] 

This is Pablo O'Higgins, an American who migrated to 
Mexico and became a Mexican. He was quite a character and 


has quite a display in the museum in Mexico City of his 

work. [next slide] This man was very delightful to work 

with. His name is-- 

RATNER: Don Freeman? 

KISTLER: Don Freeman, yes. He had a drawing in the New 

York Times for something in the theatrical section once a 

week, in the Sunday edition, for about, oh, ten or maybe 

twenty years. A very competent artist. He was interested 

in people. 

RATNER: And what was this one called? 

KISTLER: That's the — 

RATNER: Plights of Stardom it's called. 

KISTLER: Yeah, Plights of Stardom . That's a two-colored 

lithograph. He was a San Diego man that migrated to New 

York and really made a name for himself. He, in 

collaboration with his wife [Lydia Freeman], who lives in 

Santa Barbara and is still living, wrote, oh, a number of 

children's books. [next slide] That's the sort of thing 

that he was interested in, the Man with Bird on His Head . 

[next slide] This is one of the few lithographs that-- 

What ' s his name? He did The Woodcutter . 

RATNER: Paul Landacre? 

KISTLER: Paul Landacre, yes. It's a beautiful drawing, 

and his use of the various tones that are possible is 

outstanding in this. He wanted to do more, but he was 


cutting woodblocks and he became a very fine wood 
engraver. I encouraged him to keep on with his woodblock 
work and abandon lithography, although he was very good at 
it, but his woodblocks are outstanding. [next slide] This 
is a son of one of the prominent actresses. She was a 
comedian. I can't think of her name. Is there--? 
RATNER: No, there's nothing on there. 

KISTLER: That's not signed. I can't recall that. [next 
slide] This is Peter Hurd. It's called Pioneers , and I 
printed five hundred copies of that by hand from stone. I 
did just this one lithograph with him. [next slide] That 
man, I can't recall his name now either. I think it's 
signed there. But he was interested in Indians and did 
quite a number of Indian things. Can you see his name 

RATNER: Well, it wasn't on the other one. Let's see if 
it's on this one. John-- Oh, I can't read his last name, 
[next slide] I can't tell what his last name is. 
KISTLER: This is the son of a man that did all of those 
African things, books on Africa. His name is on there. 
RATNER: John Coleman- - 

KISTLER: Burroughs. Yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs was his 
father. He was a splendid artist. [next slide] That's 
another man that was very prominent in Los Angeles here. 
RATNER: Ejnar Hansen. 


KISTLER: Yeah, Ejnar Hansen. He had this plate, and he'd 
bring it in to me, oh, four or five times I think. He'd 
just have one or two or three prints pulled, and that's 
all. But he kept adding to it. [next slide] This is Bob 
[Robert] Majors, who was a very fine artist. [clicks 
through slides] And this is by that girl there. Geez, I 
just can't seem to dredge up any of these names. But look 
on that-- 

RATNER: Alice Asmar? 

KISTLER: Yes, Alice Asmar. [next slide] Tyrus Wong, a 
Chinese boy. These are a couple of horses that he drew, 
[clicks through slides] That's one of the finest prints I 
ever pulled. I can't think of his name right now. 
Probably it's on there. 

RATNER: Very faint. Let me see if I can see it. I can't 
tell. It's on there so lightly I just can't tell. 
KISTLER: [next slide] This man was a barkeeper at the 
Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. His things were all 
abstract. This is an unusual print, because he covered 
this whole area that's on stone with tusche and then he 
scraped back there. And he had these kind of forms in 
mind. Is that signed or not? 

RATNER: I don't see it on there. [next slide] 
KISTLER: This is a San Diego man. He is very well 
known. His name is on there. 


RATNER: Everett Jackson? 

KISTLER: Everett G. Jackson, yes. [next slide] This is a 

Texas gal from San Antonio. She came over here and did 

quite a number of prints with me. 

RATNER: Vera, let's see. Vera — I can't tell what her last 

name is. [Vera Wise] 

KISTLER: [clicks through slides] That man, he-- That's a 

gold dredger on the Sacramento River [ Gold Dredger ] . He 

was a marvelous artist, but he ended up drawing pictures of 

Campbell's Soup cans. With that talent-- Let's see, what 

was his name? I think it's on there. He was well known. 

[Wayne Thiebaud] [next slide] This man was a very good 


RATNER: Oh, this is Phil Paradise. 

KISTLER: Phil Paradise, that's right. [next slide] 

That's another one of his. Those first two were Maria and 

Tomas , and I don't know what that one was called. [next 

slide] This is Nicholai Fechin. I did one print with 

him. He was really a very good artist, but he didn't like 

it, because I was printing from stone at that time, and he 

objected to his drawings being reversed. They didn't print 

the way that they were drawn, and I don't think anybody 

could tell it-- 

RATNER: Was that a self-portrait? 

KISTLER: No, it's not. It's just a Mexican-- But he did a 


whole portfolio that he wouldn't work with me because I 
wouldn't reverse his work. [next slide] Here's Palmer 
Schoppe. He worked with me as an assistant for a while and 
did quite a number of things. [next slide] This is a San 
Diego woman. I had quite a few people come up from San 

RATNER: Yeah, it sounds like it. [next slide] 
KISTLER: This is Beatrice Wood. She had these screwy 
ideas. She called this one Holiday . [laughter] It's kind 
of cute, I think. [next slide] This one here, I think, is 
her impression of an operation [ Operation ] . It's quite 
graphic. [next slide] This is Dan Lutz. That's The 
Harpist . I did a number of lithographs with him. He was 
well known here. [next slide] That one was done by a 
woman by the name of Muriel Tyler, and it's a printing of I 
think about six colors by stone there. That's before I had 
worked out my registry thing. You can see the registration 
marks on the edge. I had to put those on there to get them 
in the right place. [clicks through slides] 

This is kind of interesting. I'm walking down Fifth 
Avenue one day and it was during a war, and I saw these 
pictures, these strange horses. I said, "Gee, it would 
sure be marvelous if I could get that man to do some 
lithographs." So he came into my studio one day after I 
got back to Los Angeles and was doing lithographs again. 


His name was Florencio Molino Campos, and he's one of the 
men that-- [Juan] Peron told him to get out of Argentina or 
he'd have him shot. So he came out here and he went to 
work. He made calendars for about four or five years for 
the Moling Plow Company. Walked into my studio one day-- 
RATNER: You about fell over, I bet. 

KISTLER: Yeah. He had quite a bit of trouble with the 
medium, but I think that we did capture the spirit of his 
work pretty well. [next slide] The first one is Gaucho 
Rider and this one is Gaucho Bronco Buster , and those are 
four color. [next slide] This is Helen Lundeberg. She's 
the wife of-- 

RATNER: Right, Lorser Feitelson. 

KISTLER: They were both lone artists as far as lithographs 
were concerned. They didn't work with anybody else, but 
they just didn't make any more lithographs. She is a very 
well known artist. [next slide] This is Arthur Beaumont, 
and he was lieutenant commander in the navy. I did quite a 
few things with him. This is Carmel Mission . He was a 
very good artist. [next slide] That's Conrad Buff. I did 
a couple of lithographs with him. That's American 
Pioneers . [next slide] Mary Finley Fry, she did quite a 
number of Indian things, and she was a very good 
lithographer. I did quite a few things with her. [next 
slide] That is Boulder Dam by William Woollett. William 


Woollett, Boulder Dam . [next slide] And that is the man 
who was in the picture there in the lithograph studio, a 
student of mine. And that finishes that now. 
RATNER: Great. Well, that was very interesting. A very 
wide variety of styles and subject matter also. 


MARCH 28, 1989 

RATNER: I thought we'd begin today by talking about the 
increased interest in lithography beginning in the 1950s. 
During the years of your involvement with the field, 
interest in lithography seemed to increase. For example, 
two well-known workshops opened in New York in the 19 50s. 
In 1955, Contemporaries Graphic Art Center opened. The 
precursor, I believe, to the Pratt Institute. Then in 1957 
Tatyana Grossman started Universal Limited Art Editions, 
which, of course, is still going strong. But perhaps the 
greatest evidence of the increased interest locally was the 
opening of the three print workshops in Los Angeles between 
1960 and '70. These, of course, are Tamarind [Lithography 
Workshop], which opened in 1960; Gemini G.E.L., which 
opened in 1966, by Ken [Kenneth] Tyler, a Tamarind alumnus; 
and Cirrus, which opened four years later in 1970, by Jean 
Millant, another Tamarind alum. I wondered how you felt 
about the opening of Tamarind and its program. 
KISTLER: Well, I cooperated with them in the establishment 
of their shop as much as possible. It was somewhat of a 
departure from my approach to it, and it was a fresh 
approach. My approach was to make a place where artists 
could have their prints pulled by competent people. I also 
did as much as possible to promote the sale of the prints, 


but none of it was coordinated enough to really make an 
impression. June [Wayne] 's approach was to get more 
printers into the field. I didn't feel as though it was 
necessary to have more printers. I felt as though it was a 
matter of getting competent artists to be interested in the 
process. But she felt that by making a lot of printers, 
there would be more artists interested in lithography. It 
hasn't proved to be the case at all. There has been a loss 
of interest in it. And until the artist's work can be 
presented to the public in such a way that they will 
appreciate the beauty of lithography and the fact that they 
can own the work of important artists-- The printers will 
develop themselves, and there will be more printers to come 
into the work. I would have trained another man to work 
with me if there had been enough work available and I had 
had enough cooperation. 

I was working on to get the people who were competent 
to do the work and getting them interested in the method 
and in the advisability, the fact that they could 
distribute their work on a broader field, and it would make 
more work for the artist if I could get it started. But I 
was always in competition with what was regarded as more 
desirable work, like watercolors and oils. And I thought 
that the lithographs would lead to the interest in some of 
the other processes. In working that way, I found that I 


could make work that was just as interesting as paintings 
themselves. But it has never been exploited and is still 
open, I think, for exploitation. The idea that I had of 
getting people interested in art, in good work and 
important people in the art field through something that 
they could afford to start out with-- It should appeal to 
younger people who desire good work, but they haven't 
reached the point where they can avail themselves of the 
finer work. The things that I have here are satisfying to 
me like a very fine painting. I mean, I have work of 
important people here that has relatively small cost to 
me. I think that that is the way to give people that are 
just starting out life an opportunity to have fine artwork 
earlier in life. That was the way that I looked at it. It 
wasn't so much a matter of having somebody who could make 
the prints and do printing from stone; it was a question of 
getting the artists that were important and making their 
work available to people that could afford it. It broadens 
the field of art. Later on, when they get into the money, 
why, they can spend $50,000 for a painting. But I felt 
that by making these things available at a nominal price, 
it would give the artist a broader field and it would make 
more work for the artist. 

I still think that if somebody would take up this 
method right today and pursue the matter vigorously that it 


could be as important as many of the other interests that 
people have in collecting. My friend Merle Armitage was 
not a rich man, and he could never afford the more 
expensive things, but he did have the work of very 
important people that he bought for a reasonable price. 
Like Dame-- Oh, what's her name? That English artist. 
[Laura Knight] Her work was very desirable, but my friend 
Armitage couldn't afford to buy a painting of hers. But he 
could afford that and another one. He gave that to me. 
And here's a Rockwell Kent, who was a very desirable 
artist. His work was very desirable. For a few dollars, 
maybe $25, $50, why, Armitage could afford to pay that much 
and he had something of value of his work. And it's an 
original. It's not a reproduction. He really got me 
interested in the production of prints, and it would take a 
man like him to exploit this work. But it never occurred 
to me to put him at that, because, at the time, he was 
manager of the Los Angeles Grand Opera Company, so he 
couldn't give an awful lot of time to it. But he had a 
collection of, oh, maybe a hundred or two hundred prints 
that he had bought . 

I was interested in getting more people interested in 
collecting from that standpoint. It would sharpen their 
critical sense of art by owning these things. So when they 
got enough money that they could afford the paintings and 


things like that, why, they would have the experience at a 
younger age that would make more art collectors and broaden 
the field for the artists. I think it is an important 
thing that should be done right now. I would like to see 
somebody take it up. I can't do it now, as I'm just too 
far along, but it could be done. There could be-- Well, 
some of these printers that are working today-- I guess 
Cirrus is still going, and some of these others. Another 
man that has come here from New Mexico from the Tamarind 
Institute [University of New Mexico] is Toby Michel, and I 
think that he is probably one of the most competent 
printers that I know of. 

RATNER: Getting back to Tamarind [Lithography Workshop] a 
minute, I did read somewhere, and I didn't know if it was 
true or not, that at one point you were asked to be the 
head printer at Tamarind. 
KISTLER: That's right. 
RATNER: What happened with that? 

KISTLER: Well, I had established myself and I had 
commitments that I had made. I had made commitments in 
commercial work. I had to do something to make a living. 
I wasn't making enough money out of it, and I had to get 
the base for working, so I went into commercial work. It 
was fortunate that I did. Otherwise, I don't know where I 
would have come out. 


RATNER: So when Tamarind got started, I think I also read 

that you sold some of your stone presses or your stones to 

June Wayne? 

KISTLER: Yes, I sold most of my equipment to Tamarind, I 

sold a couple of presses to them, I think, and my stones 

and some things that I had. 

RATNER: Then later, after Tamarind moved to Albuquerque, 

as you just mentioned a little bit ago, I saw in some of 

the papers at the [William Andrews] Clark [Memorial] 

Library that you had a subscription to their fax sheets, 

you received their press releases, and you began, I think 

about 1975, getting copies of The Tamarind Technical 

Papers . Then Clinton Adams, who was running it at that 

point, invited you to submit a manuscript. 


RATNER: Can you tell me about that? 

KISTLER: Well, I never did anything with it. 

RATNER: Oh, you didn't? 

KISTLER: No, I was too involved. I hope to be able to 

submit some papers now, starting with Ryman, Herbert 

Ryman. I was about to call his sister, who has some 

essential information and dates and things like that. I'm 

going to get in touch with her, and I'm going to do a paper 

on his lithographs. I'm starting to work on it now. 

RATNER: I think, though, that you did submit something-- 


maybe it was just a small article — called "Correcting or 

Changing Lithographic Drawings" that was printed in those 

papers in 1979. 


RATNER: That was a smaller article, I guess? 

KISTLER: Yes. I don't remember much about it, but I 

presume I did. 

RATNER: So then when Gemini opened in '56, how did you 

feel about that program? 

KISTLER: Well, I don't know. They were just another group 

in the field. I didn't have much contact with them. I was 

so busy in my own shop that I couldn't get around to 

theirs, and I guess they were so busy that they couldn't 

get around to mine. 

RATNER: And how about Cirrus, which focuses primarily on 

Southern California artists? 

KISTLER: Well, they were just another competitor in the 

field. I didn't have any contact with them much. 

RATNER: So there evidently was some increased interest, or 

there wouldn't have been a need to open those shops. 

KISTLER: Yes, but that was the later things. I was in the 

field back in 1932. 

RATNER: Right. You paved the way. 

KISTLER: Yes. The only competition that I had at that 

time was the Works Progress [Administration] . They 


established a lithograph shop. There were a few artists, 

but they just took anybody that came along- -as I did, 

too. They didn't concentrate on trying to get good men in 

the field to work for them. They just tried to develop the 

artists into lithography that were on the Work Projects. 

They were on the Work Projects because they didn't have 

sufficient income from their work to sustain them. It was 

sort of a charity situation. 

RATNER: Okay, then in 1970, after you had been in the 

field for a very long time and had been in a variety of 

locations, you moved your plant, once again, to 970 Menlo 

Avenue. What prompted that move? I guess you had been at 

Temple [Street] before that. 

KISTLER: Well, 970 was my home. That was an apartment 

that I lived in. I think that I had a plant at that time 

at Washington [Boulevard] and Normandie [Avenue] . 

RATNER: Okay. I must have misunderstood that. So what 

prompted the move from Temple Street to this next location 

at Washington and Normandie? 

KISTLER: From Temple Street? Well, I was doing so well 

with my commercial work that I had to have larger 

facilities, and I just expanded my business, that's all. 

RATNER: So it was a bigger space. 


RATNER: Well, in a letter of about that time to Jean 


Chariot, you say--I'm quoting here--"The print business is 

good and getting better all the time. I have worked in 

offset rather than stone for a long time. I have had quite 

a time getting my work accepted, but the turn has now 

come. After much experimentation, I believe I have 

achieved quality in my printing equal to that of handwork 

on stone." Then that's the end of the quote. What do you 

feel changed the tide of opinion? 

KISTLER: Why, I couldn't tell you what it was. 

RATNER: You're just glad it happened. 

KISTLER: Well, yes. I think somebody came along and 

offered me enough money that I was justified in getting out 

of the business. I was getting along pretty well in years 

at that time. In 1970 I was seventy years old. 

RATNER: Well, so when you said the print business was good 

and getting better all the time, were you speaking of the 

commercial end of it or the art end of it? 

KISTLER: I don't know what prompted me to say that. It 

was just enthusiasm that-- 

RATNER: Because you say in this letter to Chariot for 

November 1970, "I'm sure you didn't realize all of my work 

is now done on offset, eliminating the need for reversing 

the image. New materials, inks, and lacquers now make 

possible this way of working in lithography more responsive 

to the artist's talents and removing many of the 


difficulties. " 


RATNER: So you were-- I know, as we've talked, you were 

still printing for Chariot at that time and for Millard 

Sheets. How often were you working with other artists 

during the seventies? 

KISTLER: Well, I was also working with Joe [Joseph] 


LELAH KISTLER: Well, you were past seventy in 1970. 

KISTLER: Well, I meant in the seventies. I was, yes, 

getting along pretty well in years, and I wanted to-- I 

felt as though I had done an awful lot of work and I was 

tired. [laughter] 

RATNER: So were you printing with any other artists 

besides Mugnaini, Sheets, and Chariot at that point? 

KISTLER: Well, I did some work with Millard Sheets and 

with-- Yes, there were several artists who came to me that 

I worked with at that time. I can't remember the names of 

all of them. 

RATNER: But you focused primarily on commercial work. 

KISTLER: Yes, I had to have an income. Then there's an 

outfit that came along and offered me enough money to take 

over my commercial business, and I thought, "Well, gee, 

there's no use fighting this any longer," because the 

printing business is a very demanding business. You've got 


to be at it-- Or you did at that time have to keep your 
attention on your business very actively to make a 
success. I had a successful business, and there's an 
outfit came along and offered me a good price for my 
shop. So I sold it. 

RATNER: That was in 1976, I think I read, that you decided 
to sell. 

KISTLER: Yes. I did retain one press, though, which I 
worked with. That's when I moved, first to-- Let's see. 
There was a print distributor that I worked with for a 
while, and I took my press out there and printed. Then I 
moved from there down to Washington and Normandie. At that 
time my pressman got this allergy to the acids and 
things. I saw that it was necessary to make a large 
investment to make a safe plant, and I didn't want to bring 
anybody else in and train them unless I could put in an 
air-conditioned plant. 

RATNER: Right, I remember you mentioning that. 
KISTLER: Tamarind has found that it is necessary. Their 
whole operation is air-conditioned. They work with a great 
deal of care as far as the handling of the chemicals and 
the acids and things like that are concerned. I wasn't so 
careful, and I commenced to have trouble with my hands 
breaking out and everything. So I just figured that it 
wasn't worth my going ahead with it. Because I was in my 


eighties then, and that seemed to be too far along to take 
up a big project of putting in a plant and paying for it, 
because I knew that it would take quite a long time to 
develop it to the point where it would be profitable. 
RATNER: I know that you did some printing after 1976, when 
you sold the plant, though. Where was that press that you 
kept? Because I know, for example, in '77, and even a 
little later, '78, you were still working with Chariot. So 
where was the press that you were using for that? 
KISTLER: Well, that was at Washington and Normandie. 
That's where I did the last thing with Chariot, which was 
Kei Viti . 

RATNER: Right. That Polynesian-- 

KISTLER: That series of five prints. And I also finished 
up the Ten Views of the Moon for Joe Mugnaini there. 
RATNER: At that plant. 

KISTLER: But I found that I would have to train another 
printer, and it was hard to find anyone that had the 
temperament that could work with the irregularity that we 
had in printing by the offset method, that needed to be 
organized in such a way that it could be profitable. Air- 
conditioning was an absolute necessity at that time. It 
became evident as an absolute necessity. 

RATNER: Okay, I also wanted to ask you-- Actually, a year 
before you sold your plant, in 1975, Merle Armitage died. 


How much contact did you have with him during those years 
previous to that? 

KISTLER: Well, Armitage moved out into the mountains out-- 
oh, let's see- -near Mount San Gorgonio. He found a place 
there that he was fond of. He discovered it when he was 
with the military and he was doing procurement work for 
them. He was sort of the man that would take and push 
things, you know, and get them done. He was rather 
reckless with the chances that he took, and, of course, 
it's people that take a chance that really make the 
discoveries. It's these people that sit around and have to 
have everything perfect before they do anything that never 
get anything done, although they might be quite competent 
if they'd just move. But Armitage was one of those people 
who could take a situation and make it work. He was a very 
good executive in that respect. He was the kind of man 
that overcame difficulties as they arose. Very often it 
seemed as though he was putting himself very much out on 
the limb, but he managed to get them through. There was a 
demand for getting things done in the Second World War, and 
that was what he was doing. So he had to do quite a bit of 
flying for procurement and things like that, and he passed 
over this area around the back of Mount San Gorgonio that 
he liked. So when he got out of the army, he decided he 
would retire there. That's out at Apple Valley. So that 


was the reason that he located out there, because he loved 
the outdoors, and he was pretty well along in years too at 
that time and was ready for retirement. I used to go out 
and see him quite often, maintained an association with 
him, but we had no projects or anything after he came out 
of the army. 

RATNER: Then also in 1975, that was the year you had a 
show at Cal[ifornia] State University, Northridge, of the 
books that you had printed, many of which, of course, you 
printed with Merle Armitage, and we discussed those earlier 


RATNER: How did that exhibition come to be? 
KISTLER: Well, it was arranged through my friend Carl 
Haverlin, who was the manager of Broadcast Music 
Incorporated [BMI]. He was a boyhood friend, and we had 
projects together in later life of one sort and another. 
He was always interested in the printing work that I was 
doing, and he got me in touch with some of the people at 
Northridge. And I gave them some books out of my library 
and some prints. My work was known amongst artists in the 
[San Fernando] Valley, so that they became interested in 
what I was doing. I have a collection of books that I gave 
to them. They have quite a few of my prints out there. 
Carl Haverlin was responsible for making that exhibition 


possible. They had a meeting at which I was the honored 
guest, and that's how it came about was through my 
friend. Interestingly enough, Carl was one of those 
people, too, that could get things done. I usually figured 
out what we would do, and he, with his enthusiasm, would 
take them up and put them over. [laughter] I gave him the 
idea very often, and he was the one that carried out the 
execution of them. He was a very good organizer and things 
of that sort. 

RATNER: It seems like it was an interesting exhibition. 
KISTLER: Yes, it was, and they have my work out there now 
at Northridge. 

RATNER: The books and things. 

RATNER: That's great. Then in 1975, I discovered--! 
wasn't sure if this was before or after you sold your 
plant- -you were on a trip to New York and you met with the 
art historian and print expert Hyatt Mayor, who urged you 
apparently to establish a printing plant in New York. Tell 
me about that meeting and your reaction to his suggestion. 
KISTLER: Oh, that was during the war, and I didn't want to 
locate in New York. He urged me to come back there and go 
to work, but it was during the war, and there was 
substantial competition there in [George] Miller, who was 
doing a very good job and has done more extensive work than 


I have in lithography. So I didn't think that it was a 
good idea. Of course. New York tries to get as much 
notoriety there as they can. They saw a possibility of 
getting some of Southern California's notoriety, but I knew 
that I didn't want to locate there permanently. So I 
didn't do anything with it, although he did urge me to 
establish my work there. But during the war it wasn't a 
good idea. I left before the war ended and came home 
anyway, and I was glad to get back in Southern 
California. My reason for going to the East was my wife at 
that time [Naomi Tucker Kistler]-- Her sister had married a 
man and gone back East, so she [the sister] was pregnant-- 
and I had my home at 3060 Patricia Avenue in Los Angeles at 
that time--and she said that she was going to go back to 
stay with her sister until the baby came. I happened to be 
at loose ends at that time, and I told her that I would go 
back there with her if she was going back there. Because 
she went back once before and stayed about four months, and 
I practically had to get the police out to get her back, 
[laughter] So I-- 

RATNER: You didn't take any chances that time. 
KISTLER: No, SO I went back, too. Because I didn't want 
to be alone in my house. I had a beautiful house on 
Patricia Avenue. It was individually designed and 
everything. One of the builders came and went through the 


place and said, "My God, this man put more wood in this 
place than is needed." He says, "It's built like a 
[inaudible]." [laughter] It was really very nicely 
done. At that time I bought a lot in a very nice 
neighborhood in Cheviot Hills for $1,000-- 

KISTLER: --if you can imagine that. 
RATNER: No, I can't. 

KISTLER: This house, which was all individually designed-- 
It wasn't put up like they are now, you know. They take it 
and make a whole lot of houses and cut them up and have 
them so they are put together. You've got to have a 
pattern to put them up in, but they're all the same. There 
would be dozens of them in a tract that would have the same 
layout and everything else. But mine was individually 
designed, hand-rubbed ceilings and everything. It was a 
beautiful five-room bungalow, two bedrooms and a dining 
room and a living room and a kitchen. And the building 
cost me about $2,500. Isn't that amazing? 
RATNER: Yes, it's upsetting today. [laughter] 


MARCH 28, 1989 

RATNER: Okay, right before I flipped the tape, you were 

telling me about your house that you built for $2,500. 

What were you able to sell it for, then? 

KISTLER: I sold it at the end of the war for $20,000. 

RATNER: So you had quite a profit. 

KISTLER: Yes, it was a profit. That gave me the money to 

buy the place at Carondelet [Street] and Third Street. The 

Carondelet and Third Street nearly broke my wife's heart 

because-- I had to do something. There weren't any jobs 

that I could get that would pay a decent wage, and so I had 

to get out and hustle them myself. 

RATNER: Oh, so that's when you opened that plant. 


RATNER: Okay, well, jumping way up to 1981, I read a 

letter from Clinton Adams to you dated July 1981. He was 

responding, I guess, to a letter you'd written to him 

because you were interested in providing Tamarind with 

regraining services. I didn't know if stones had become 

unavailable or they were-- 

KISTLER: Well, they were getting scarce. 

RATNER: So did you end up doing that? 

KISTLER: I was going to do some regraining for them? 

RATNER: That's what it said. 


KISTLER: Well, that must have been some mistake, because I 
never got into that. 

RATNER: Maybe it was just an idea or something. 
KISTLER: I might have sent them some information on 
graining, but I never contemplated doing any graining for 

RATNER: Okay. Also in 1981, in November of that year, the 
Heritage Gallery in Beverly Hills held an exhibition 
"Homage to Lynton Kistler. " Tell me how that came about. 
KISTLER: Well, the man who owned the place-- Let's see, 
what was his name? [Benjamin] Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz was 
interested in my work, so I made my prints available to 
him, and he put on an exhibition there and tried to sell 
them. But there-- Things that are successful today are 
successful because somebody gets behind them and pushes 
them, has money to exploit them. The galleries at that 
time-- I don't know how they do now, but at that time, they 
were just merchants in art, and there hadn't been enough-- 
Even today there hasn't been enough exploitation of the art 
field and the possibility that there is for selling fine 
art. It hasn't been done on the scale that some of the 
other things are done. Almost everything is sold today 
like Campbell's soup. In other words, they spend a lot of 
money on the cans and on the labels and on getting people 
to buy the product, and the product doesn't cost half as 


much as the advertising and the packaging and promotion of 
the product. There's never been that effort put on fine 

RATNER: But still some changes have occurred since the 
thirties in terms of interest in prints, and I'm wondering 
how you might characterize the changes in gallery interest, 
increased patronage, the increased interest on the part of 
museums as well as the increased value of prints over, you 
know, this span of time since the thirties when you began 

KISTLER: Well, there's been more interest. For instance, 
the Los Angeles County Art Association has started out at 
what was Exposition Park. They had a gallery out there, 
and I did my original exhibits out at Exposition Park. For 
three or four years, I think I had nearly half of the 
prints in the show sometimes that I printed of various 
artists. You know what has happened as far as-- There are 
more art dealers today and they're more sophisticated and 
they are doing more promotional work, but there has been no 
real organization in the associations to sell art to the 
public and promote it, and that certainly could be done. 
RATNER: Well, how would you summarize your contributions 
to the field? 

KISTLER: Well, I would say that I became interested in 
making art available to the general public on an 


inexpensive basis and used lithography as an introductory 

method. I feel as though I made a contribution in drawing 

attention to an art medium that has developed considerably 

since I had my first shop in my garage. I explored the 

possibilities and introduced quite a number of innovations 

in working and in the method of working in the materials 

that were used. I feel as though the work that I did in 

the early thirties and forties made a field that some of 

the other hand lithographers have been able to exploit 

since I first took up hand lithography. I had the first 

organized hand-printing shop for artists in Los Angeles. I 

was the first one that established a shop for artists where 

they could have their work done. I tried to sell it, too, 

and did sell quite a bit of it. 

RATNER: What would you say were some of your very best 

moments as a lithographer? 

KISTLER: Oh, I think some of the prints that I've pulled 

from the stone. I think that this two-color print here was 

one of the-- 

RATNER: The Chariot Woman with Child on Back ? 


RATNER: That was your first one, right? 

KISTLER: I think that the work that I did with Chariot was 

the most important that I did. The work that I did with 

Joe Mugnaini was another one. I was very much pleased with 


the work that I did with [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright . He 
was a man of great imagination, and he had a theory that 
there was a relationship between artwork and music. The 
print that I did with him was one of the highlights. The 
books that I printed with Merle Armitage were of great 
pleasure to me. The first book that we printed offset, 
which was a departure from regular book production, was the 
[Eugen] Maier-Krieg book [ The Work of Maier-Krieg ] . I was 
very much delighted with that, because it was a departure 
from regular book production, which depended almost 
entirely at that time on work from-- Work in the typeset 
books. The first Chariot Picture Book was a high point. 
The thirty-two lithographs all hand drawn on the plate and 
printed on an offset press from the work of the artist and 
from four to eight colors on a 35" X 45" sheet, eight of 
them on a plate, registered, I think was-- I don't think it 
has ever been equaled to this day. I don't think there is 
anybody who has printed anything quite so important as that 
book. Did you see it? 
RATNER: Yes, I did. 

KISTLER: That was a triumph as far as I was concerned. I 
also printed a book in my father [William A. Kistler]'s 
plant of a collection of Edward Weston's work [ The Art of 
Edward Weston ] . Both of those books made the [American 
Institute of Graphic Arts] Fifty Books of the Year. So 


that I not only excelled in printing in offset, but also in 
letterpress. The Edward Weston book was printed by 
letterpress, and it became one of the Fifty Books of the 
Year. Then there was another book [ Warren Newcombe ] that I 
printed. It was the work of Warren Newcombe, a collection 
of his paintings, all done in black and white, and that was 
printed offset, which at that time was a departure to 
reproduction. So that all three of those books represented 
a different approach. The first one was printed from 
plates that were drawn directly on the lithograph plates 
and printed offset. The Warren Newcombe book was a 
reproduction of his paintings in black and white. It made 
the Fifty Books of the Year, and that was a reproduction 
job in offset. The first one was printing from original 
plates, and the reproduction in offset, and the third one 
was the photographs of Edward Weston, and that was a 
letterpress job. So that I was working in all of those 
different mediums. My father was a very competent printer, 
and I was working for him at the time, but it was my 
association with Armitage and my interest in art that 
brought those books to our plant to be done. I was as 
proud of the work that I did there as any that I turned 

Of course, the work that I did with Macdonald-Wright I 
thought was outstanding, particularly the eleven-color 


lithograph that I printed in my own plant. Those things I 
thought were the highlights of my work. I'm very proud of 
the work that I did with Joe Mugnaini. I thought that that 
was very important. And, of course, this lithograph of 
Herbert Ryman I think is one of the finest that I've ever 
seen in printing. It was a very demanding thing to 
print. We only did two copies. The artist didn't want to 
make an edition of it. I pulled one copy for the artist, 
which he disposed of to one of the prominent people in the 
motion picture business, and the other one, of course, you 
saw. So that that was the utilization of the lithographic 
process for the qualities that are inherent in the method 
itself, which are so important. I think that the print 
that I showed you on the door there of Ryman ' s is one of 
the finest lithograph prints that I've ever seen. It was 
made possible by the selection of the right stone and the 
right artist, and I do say myself that I did a good job 
printing on it. 

RATNER: It's a lovely print. Those things sound worthy of 
being highlights definitely. 

KISTLER: Another thing that I was very much pleased with 
was the little miniature book that I gave you of the 
Picture Book , which I thought came out awfully well. I had 
a very good binder on it, and it is well done. It tends to 
be a little bit muddy in some of the prints, but unless you 


just faked a lot as you-- The making of the plates-- It was 

made for more or less a record anyway, so that most of them 

came out awfully well, came out as well as they did in 

their original. But I was very much pleased with that 

job. So that's about it. 

RATNER: Well, we've talked at length about your career as 

a lithographer, and I wondered if there was any--I know 

that took up so much of your time. I wondered if there was 

anything else with which you were involved over the years 

that you might want to mention. 

KISTLER: Gee, I don't know. I've just been a lithographer 

all my life. 

RATNER: A busy one, too, I know. Well, those are really 

all the questions I have. Is there anything else at all 

that you'd like to add? 

KISTLER: No, I don't know of anything. 

RATNER: Okay, well, thank you very much. 

KISTLER: I can't think of anything except that I've 

enjoyed working with you. I think you've been very patient 


RATNER: Oh, you've been great. You worry too much. Thank 

you very much on behalf of UCLA. I enjoyed the experience 

very much myself and learned a tremendous amount. Thank 




Adams, Clinton, 130, 185, 
196, 202, 224, 225, 237, 
250, 283, 295 

American Contemporary 
Gallery, 197 

American Institute of 

Graphic Arts, 51, 80, 81, 
109, 299 

American Society of 

Composers, Authors, and 
Publishers, 171 

Annex Gallery, 91 

Anthony, Earl C. , 103 

Armitage, Merle, 17, 18, 
26, 41-42, 43, 46, 47, 
49, 54, 56, 57, 62-63, 
78, 79, 80-81, 83, 88, 
89-90, 92-94, 95-96, 100- 
102, 103, 107-9, 110, 
119, 128, 134, 149, 225, 
281, 289-91, 299, 300 

Asmar, Alice, 273 

Associated American 

Artists, 73-74, 121-22, 
128, 197, 198 

Backus, Standish, 129 

Baldwin, John, 129 

Barr, Thomas, 19, 47, 56, 

Barrett, Lawrence, 147-48, 

Bartlett, Ivan, 129 
Beaumont, Arthur, 276 
Beetz, Carl, 129 
Berman, Eugene, 205, 219, 

225, 227-30, 237, 250, 

Biddle, George, 130 
Bisttram, Emil, 130 
Blanchard Press, 171 
Blumberg, Fanny, 130 
Botsford, Edwin, 56, 130 
Bradbury, Ray, 222-23, 261 
Breneiser, John, 56, 130 
Breneiser, Stanley, 130 
Brice, William, 208, 225 

Broadcast Music 

Incorporated, 170-71, 291 
"Brooklyn Museum 

Retrospective Print Show, 

1913-1947," 144-45 
Buff, Conrad, 67, 276 
Burkhardt, Hans, 208 
Burroughs, John Coleman, 

Byrnes, Barbara, 197 

California Printmakers, 76- 

California State Fair, 113 

California State 

University, Northridge, 
78, 119, 291-92 

Chabot Gallery, 239 

Chambers, Mary Richards 
(great-grandmother), 5-6 

Chariot, Jean, 18, 28, 46, 
47-48, 51, 54, 56, 63, 
72, 74, 80, 88-89, 94, 
100, 118, 128-29, 135-39, 
142, 144-45, 147-70, 172- 
85, 189, 209, 210, 211, 
214, 215, 219, 221, 224, 
225, 227, 231, 237, 239, 
244, 250-52, 254-56, 285- 
87, 298, 299 

Chariot, Zohmah Day, 149, 
151, 166, 179, 183 

Chouinard, Nelbert M. , 142, 

Chouinard Art Institute, 
22, 140, 141, 142, 185 

Cirrus, 278, 282 

Clark, William Andrews, 
Memorial Library, 49, 52, 
135, 176, 178, 192, 283 

Claudel, Paul, 51, 168 

Cleveland Print Club, 76-77 

Contemporaries Graphic Art 
Center, 278 

Copley Gallery, 197, 199, 
201, 202, 203 

Craig, Thomas, 131 


Dawson's Book Shop, 168-69, 

Day, Richard, 56, 80, 131 
De Soto, Ernie, 152 
Dike, Phil, 129, 208, 219, 

250, 268 
Disneyland, 133, 265 
Doolittle, James, 11 

E. Weyhe, 83, 84 

Ernst, Max, 199, 201, 202-3 

Escondito Blade , 6 

Farmer, Thomas, 131 

Fechin, Nicholai, 274 

Feitelson, Lorser, 131, 
133, 151, 152-53, 208, 
216, 227-28, 269, 276 

Fleming, Alexander Patrick, 

Fleury, Gene, 131 

Ford Foundation, 241 

Foshay, M. Amelia, 9 

Fox, C. Frank, 110 

Freeman, Donald, 131, 271 

Freeman, Lydia, 271 

Fry, Mary Finley, 132, 245 

Fuchs and Lang Manufac- 
turing Company, 43, 45, 

Funk, Joseph, 201, 204 

Cans, Robert, 125, 161-62, 

Gans Ink Company, 125, 161, 

189, 191 
Garden, Mary, 92-93, 95 
Gemini G.E.L,, 278, 284 
Geritz, Franz, 56 
Graham, Martha, 102, 110 
Great Depression, 19, 53- 

54, 75 
Griner, Jenny, 3 
Grossman, Tatyana, 278 

Haines, Richard, 132, 141, 

Hammond Lumber Company, 12 
Hansen, Ejnar, 272-73 
Hatfield, Dalzell, 62, 90 

Hatfield, Ruth, 62 
Hatfield Gallery, 62, 78 
Haverlin, Carl, 10, 17, 34, 

41-42, 79, 102-4, 170, 

Heller, Jules, 201 
Heritage Gallery, 296 
Hokusai, 158-59 
Hollywood Bowl, 107 
"Homage to Lynton Kistler, " 

Hurd, Peter, 132, 272 

"Impressions Printed by 
Hand from Stone and Zinc 
by Lynton Kistler at the 
Stendahl Gallery, " 56 

Jackson, Everett G. , 274 
James, George Horton, 8, 

31, 32 
Jepson Art Institute, 141 
Jones, Isabel Morse, 107 

Kantor, Paul, 197 

KECA radio station, 103, 

Kelly, John, 267 
Kent, Rockwell, 64, 88, 281 
Kistler, Helen Mikesell 

(second wife), 231 
Kistler, John 

(grandfather), 4-5, 35 
Kistler, Lelah Morris 

(third wife), 2, 3, 4 
Kistler, Mamie Chambers 

(mother), 5, 6, 9, 11 
Kistler, Naomi Tucker 

(first wife), 19, 21, 

293, 295 
Kistler, Rodney J., 30 
Kistler, William A. 

(father), 2, 5, 6-9, 11, 

14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 

27, 30, 31-33, 35, 40-41, 

51-52, 53, 54, 69-70, 87, 

111-12, 126, 135, 182, 

195, 299, 300 
Knight, Laura, 64, 96, 281 


Landacre, Paul, 56-57, 63, 

103-6, 132, 271-72 
Landau, Felix, 197 
Land of Sunshine , 30 
Langsner, Jules, 185, 241 
Lebrun, Rico, 208, 225 
Little Gallery, 197 
London, Jack, 31 
Lord, Jack, 77, 159, 166-67 
Los Angeles Art 

Association, 66-67, 76, 

Los Angeles Art Institute, 

151, 152 
Los Angeles Art Students 

League, 23, 24 
Los Angeles City Council, 

Los Angeles County Art 

Association, 297 
Los Angeles County Museum 

of Art, 106, 165 
Los Angeles County Museum 

of History, Science, and 

Art, 23, 65 
Los Angeles Engraving 

Company, 86 
Los Angeles Grand Opera 

Company, 17, 41, 79, 90, 

95, 108, 281 

Los Angeles Lithograph 

Company, 98 
Los Angeles Philharmonic 

Orchestra, 17, 93, 108 
Lovick, Gerd, 57 
Lundeberg, Helen, 132-33, 

208, 276 
Lutz, Dan, 208, 275 

Macdonald-Wright, Stanton, 
23, 24, 26, 63, 74, 124, 
185, 189, 190, 195-96, 
205-7, 216, 224, 231, 
234, 259, 299, 300-301 

Maier-Kreig, Eugen, 42, 79, 

96, 98-99, 299 
Majors, Robert, 129, 133, 

Man Ray, 199-201, 203 
Maris, Marcia, 165, 190, 268 

Marsh Art Service, 72 
Martin, Fletcher, 133 
Mayor, Hyatt, 292 
McKee, William E., 133 
Melzner, Ludwig, 97, 98 
Messenger, Ivan, 133 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 82-83, 

134, 193, 263-64 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

122, 153-54 
Michel, Toby, 282 
Millant, Jean, 278 
Miller, Burr, 120 
Miller, George, 120-21, 

154, 292-93 
Millier, Arthur, 68 
Modern Institute of Art 

(Beverly Hills), 197 
Molino Campos, Florencio, 

59-60, 276 
Morgan, Marian, 11 
Morse, Peter, 158, 176, 

219, 268 
Mugnaini, Joseph, 221-22, 

250, 260-61, 287, 289, 

298, 301 

Napolitano, Giovanni, 100- 

Negulesco, Jean, 130, 265 
Neuner Stationery Company, 

Newcombe, Warren, 26, 27, 

57, 81, 82-83, 129, 193 
New York World's Fair, 122 
Nutting, Myron, 262 

Oceanside Wave , 6 
O'Higgins, Pablo, 270-71 
Orozco, Jose Clemente, 47 
Otis Art Institute, 22, 

Out West , 8, 30-31 

Pajaud, William, 263 
Paradise, Phil, 129, 208, 

Patrick, James, 133 
Perls, Frank, 197 
Peron, Juan, 276 


Perry, Ernest, 164, 165, 

Philbrook, William, 136 
Picasso, Pablo, 108 
Pinto, James, 133 
Plummer, Elmer, 133 
Price, Vincent, 197 
Prohibition Party, 4 

Quinn, Noel, 270 

Richards, Mary 

( grandmother ) , 1 
Richfield Oil Company, 172 
Rivera, Diego, 47 
Ritchie, Ward, 91, 105 
Rodriguez, Jose, 102, 104 
Rohrer, Paul, 195 
Roosevelt, Theodore, 7 
Ross, Kenneth, 151, 152 
Ryman, Herbert, 133, 193, 

194, 265-66, 283, 301 

Sanders, Herschel, 264 
Schoppe, Palmer, 67, 133- 

34, 275 
Seeds, Elise Cavanna, 51, 

57, 89, 90, 102, 119, 129 
Senefelder, Alois, 15, 43- 

44, 46 
Shakers, 6 
Sheets, Millard, 22, 26, 

73, 75, 90-92, 189, 190, 

208, 267, 287 
Shore, Henrietta, 57, 88, 

89, 134, 181-82 
Sloane, Blanding, 57 
Smith, Jack Martin, 134 
Smithsonian Institution, 

77, 131, 165, 179, 229- 

30, 259 
Steep, George Vail, 8, 32 
Stendahl, Earl, 21, 57 
Stendahl Gallery, 19, 21, 

23, 60, 62, 90, 130 
Stewart, Virginia, 102 
Strathmore Paper Company, 

53, 123 
Stravinsky, Igor, 107 
Stussy, Jan, 262-63 

Swartz, Fred, 218 
Swiggett, Jean, 134 

Tamarind Institute, 282-83 
Tamarind Lithography 

Workshop, 219, 242, 278, 

282, 295 
Thiebaud, Wayne, 208, 274 
Tibbets, Lawrence, 11 
Tyler, Kenneth, 278 
Tyler, Muriel, 275 

United States Army, 12 
Universal Limited Art 

Editions, 278 
University of California, 

Los Angeles, 22, 23, 185, 

195-96, 225, 262 
University of Colorado, 

University of Southern 

California, 22, 201, 204, 


Van Soelen, Theodore, 249- 

Walt Disney Studio, 192-93, 

Wayne, June, 185-86, 196, 

204, 207, 208, 225, 237, 

240, 241, 279, 283 
Weston, Edward, 26, 46, 81, 

84-85, 86-87, 109, 134 
Wise, Vera, 274 
Wong, Tyrus, 273 
Wood, Beatrice, 26-27, 57, 

90, 130, 275 
Woollett, William, 276-77 
Works Progress 

Administration, 26, 91, 

141-42, 284-85 
Wurdemann, Helen, 66, 76, 


Young, Joseph, 165-66 

Zeitlin, Jake, 62, 65, 67, 

159, 178-79 
Zigrosser, Carl, 215-16 



Alphabet For Adults , 

American Pioneers , 

Appian Way , 

April Witch , 

Art of Edward Weston, The , 

Balboa Harbor , 

Balloon Ascension , 

Boulder Dam , 

Bus Stop , 

Carmel Mission , 

Carnival , 

Castle, The , 

Chicken Woman , 

Corral, The , 

Dragon, The , 

Elise , 

Fifty Photographs by Edward Weston , 

Fit for a King: The Merle Armitage Book of Food , 

Flores , 

Gaucho Bronco Buster , 

Gaucho Rider , 

Gershwin's Music, 





27, 84-87, 
109, 299-300 










222, 262 







190, 259 


Giovanni Napolitano; Fifteen Reproductions of 100 
His Work , 

Gold Dredger , 274 

Green Morning, A , 262 

Halloween , 261 

Harpist, The , 275 

Hawaiian Drummer , 154 155 

252^ 254' 

Henrietta Shore , 88-89, 111, 


Holiday , 275 

Horse Frightened by Lightening , 267 

Hound, The , 261 

House on Fire , 265 

How To Make a Lithograph , 215-20, 243 

Igor Stravinsky , 107-8 

Jean Chariot's Prints; A Catalogue Raisonne , 176 

Indian Man , 252 

Kei Viti , 177, 256, 289 

Le Roman Noir , 200 

Leviathan , 261 

Lithographs of Richard Day, The , 80 

Little Seamstress, The , 173-75, 256 

Malibu Mountains , 264 

Malinche , 252 

Man and Woman , 266 

Man with Bird on His Head , 271 


Maria , 274 

Martha Graham , 110 

Max Ernst: Thirty Years of His Work , 201, 204 

Millard Sheets , 91 

Mock Battle , 253-54 

Mock Victory , 254 

Modern Dance , 102 

New Arrivals , 257 

Nocturnal Cathedral , 228-30 

Operation , 275 

Picture Book , 28-29, 48-53, 

56, 80, 84, 
100, 101, 
128, 135, 
157-59, 168- 
70, 181, 189, 
252, 299, 301 

Picture Book No. II , 156-66, 169- 

70, 177, 189, 
191, 231, 255 

Pilgrims , 252 

Pioneers , 272 

Pisan Fantasy , 258 

Plights of Stardom , 271 

Pueblos in the Rain , 267 

Rainbow Castle , 164, 268-69 

Robot World, 261 

Rockwell Kent, 


San Francisco Cable Car, 267 


Sunday Dress , 142, 145, 251 

Ten Views of the Moon , 289 

Tomas , 274 

Tortilla Lesson, The , 118, 145, 251 

Tower on Mars, A , 222, 251 

Tunnel, The , 266 

Two Statements by Pablo Picasso , 108 

Verona , 259 

Visitor, The , 262 

Warren Newcombe , 81, 88, 111, 


Wash Day , 263 

Waterlily , 258 

Winter, New York , 267 

Woman with Child on Back , 47, 54, 128, 

251, 298 

Woodcutter, The , 271 

Work of Maier-Kreig, The , 42, 79, 96, 

98-99, 100,